Cervical Medial Branch Blocks

Cervical Facet Joint Pain

Facet joints connect the bones of the spine. These small joints at the back of the spine provide stability and flexibility to the spine and can become painful with age, wear and tear or with injury. Damage to the cervical facet joints resulting in pain is extremely common following whiplash injuries to the neck such as those suffered during motor vehicle accidents. Medial branch nerves, located near the facet joints, transmit the pain signals from the facet joints to your brain.

It is difficult to diagnose facet joint pain as investigations such as x-rays, CT scans and MRI scans cannot show for certain if the cervical facet joints are causing neck pain. The only proven way to confirm that pain is arising from the cervical facet joints is to block the medial branch nerves to the cervical facet joints with local anaesthetic. If this relieves your neck pain, this confirms the cervical facet joints as the cause of the neck pain.

Following a full assessment your doctor will decide if your pain is likely to be caused by one or more cervical facet joints. To confirm this you will usually require at least two sets of cervical medial branch blocks.

Cervical Medial Branch Blocks

Cervical medial branch blocks are a diagnostic test to confirm the cervical facet joints as the cause of your neck pain. If this test confirms that pain is arising from these joints then radiofrequency facet joint denervation may be an effective treatment for your neck pain.

Cervical medial branch blocks are performed as a day case procedure at North Shore Private Hospital in a specialised x-ray facility. A small amount of local anaesthetic is injected to block the medial branch nerves to one or more cervical facet joints. The doctor will assess your pain before and after the procedure and it may be necessary to keep a pain diary of your response to the blocks. The procedure is minimally invasive and side effects are rare. A small number of patients may experience local bruising and discomfort. Please consult your doctor to discuss in detail the potential risks and complications of the procedure at the time of your consultation.

If the procedure confirms that the cervical facet joints are causing your neck pain it is likely that radiofrequency facet joint denervation will be an effective treatment for your neck pain and your doctor will discuss this with you.

Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from a qualified health practitioner. The Northern Pain Centre can facilitate you obtaining a second opinion. Please discuss this with us.