Lumbar Medial Branch Blocks

Lumbar 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. Medial branch nerves, located near the facet joints, transmit the pain signals from the facet joints to your brain.

Lumbar facet joint pain is typically described as aching or throbbing, can be felt on one or both sides of the lumbar spine, and can also spread into the buttocks, groin or down the legs. It is frequently made worse with standing or walking and can ease on lying flat.

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

Following a full assessment your doctor will decide if your pain is likely to be caused by one or more lumbar facet joints. Depending on your individual pain condition you may require one or more sets of lumbar medial branch blocks.

Lumbar Medial Branch Blocks

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

Lumbar 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 lumbar 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.

If the procedure confirms that the lumbar facet joints are causing your back pain it is likely that radiofrequency facet joint denervation will be an effective treatment for your back 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 an appropriately qualified health practitioner. Northern Pain Centre can facilitate you obtaining a second opinion. Please discuss this with us.