Managing Chronic Lower Back Pain

Many people will experience an occasional ache or pain in the lower back from time to time, but for some individuals, the pain is constant. More importantly, the discomfort can interfere with daily activities, leaving the afflicted with limited mobility and a poor quality of life. While oral or topical medications can be prescribed to treat the symptoms, some people will respond better to a minimally invasive solution such as a medial branch block. Understanding when to consider the intervention and how to prepare can help lower back pain sufferers make an informed decision.


What causes chronic back pain?

A variety of factors can contribute to chronic back pain. While age tends to be the most significant contributing issue, other aspects can also influence the condition. For example, a person who struggles with arthritis in the spine may have reduced cartilage. Over time, the bones in the spine begin to rub against each other, causing pain. Other causes of lower back pain can include spinal stenosis, a herniated disc, or even unexplained muscle pain or tenderness, known as myofascial pain syndrome.

When meds aren’t enough

In specific scenarios, a person suffering from lower back pain may find that a medial branch block is the best diagnostic solution. The minimally invasive procedure involves injecting anesthetic near the small medial nerves in the back. Typically, multiple injections may be performed in a single session. If a patient notes immediate relief, the physician will determine that facet joints are the source of lower back pain. In most cases, a medial branch block is not a final treatment but rather a diagnostic remedy to help create a treatment plan. The following tips will help people prepare for the procedure.

1. Skip foods and drinks

As with many medical procedures, physicians don’t want people to eat or drink immediately before the procedure. Most experts will recommend that a patient undergoing a medial branch block abstain from eating or drinking for at least 4 hours before receiving the injections. Once the diagnostic is complete, people can immediately resume eating or drinking.

2. Pause certain medications

In particular, people on blood thinners may need to pause the current medication regimen until the medial branch block is completed. For best results, patients should speak with the administering physician to determine when to start and stop necessary medications.

3. Bring a trusted caretaker

Patients are typically awake during a medial branch block. However, the medication administered can make a person unsteady even if walking is possible after the procedure. As a general rule, patients should bring a person who can drive home since driving is restricted for up to 24 hours after the procedure.

What comes next

Some people will experience long-lasting relief from a medial branch block. However, not all individuals will have the same experience. If facet joints are the culprit of lower back pain and relief is not long-lasting, a modified treatment plan may be recommended. People suffering from low chronic back pain should speak with a physician for possible solutions and to determine if a medial branch block is the best option.

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