Medial Branch and Facet Blocks

peakhwBack Pain, Injections, Nerve Blocks


Understanding the Differences Between Facet Blocks and Medial Branch Blocks

At Peak Health and Wellness, there are several types of block injections available to help manage pain, particularly in the back. Understanding the differences between these types of blocks can help you make informed decisions about your treatment options. Two of the most common types are facet blocks and medial branch blocks.

Facet Block:

  • What It Is: A facet block involves the injection of an anesthetic combined with a steroid directly into a spinal joint.
  • Purpose: This block targets the facet joints, which are small stabilizing joints located between and behind adjacent vertebrae.
  • Use Case: Facet blocks are typically used for patients suffering from arthritis or mechanical lower back pain.

Medial Branch Block:

  • What It Is: A medial branch block is quite similar to a facet block but differs in the injection site. The medication is injected outside the joint, closer to the medial branch nerves, which are nerves that carry pain signals from the facet joints.
  • Steroid Use: In medial branch blocks, a steroid may or may not be included with the anesthetic.
  • Use Case: These are also used for patients with back pain, often to determine if the pain is originating from the facet joints.

Diagnostic and Therapeutic Uses

Both facet blocks and medial branch blocks serve dual purposes—they can be diagnostic, therapeutic, or both.

Diagnostic Use:

  • Purpose: To determine the source of the pain. If a block is effective in alleviating pain, it indicates that the facet joint is the pain source. Conversely, if there is no relief, the facet joint can be ruled out as the cause.

Therapeutic Use:

  • Purpose: To provide long-term pain relief. If the initial pain relief from the injection persists for several days, additional injections may be administered to manage the pain effectively.
  • Benefits: These injections are less invasive and more cost-effective compared to surgical options. They can be repeated and combined with other therapies to enhance pain relief.

Potential Side Effects

While these injections are generally safe, there are a few potential side effects to be aware of:

  • Allergic Reactions: Rare, but possible, particularly to the anesthetic or steroid used.
  • Bleeding and Infections: Also rare, but a consideration with any injection procedure.
  • Weakness and Numbness: These can occur if the anesthetic spreads to nearby nerves, but these symptoms are usually temporary.
  • Localized Pain: Minor pain at the injection site is common, similar to any other type of injection.


Despite the potential side effects, the benefits of block injections—both in diagnosing the source of pain and in providing therapeutic relief—often outweigh the risks. These treatments offer a valuable alternative to more invasive procedures like surgery, making them a popular choice for patients suffering from chronic back pain.

If you’re ready to determine what’s causing your back pain or even minimize it in seconds, a sympathetic block, facet block, or medial branch block could be for you. Schedule a detailed consultation or book your appointment online or by calling (801) 689-3389.