Medial branch nerve block – test procedure

Today I went into hospital for a diagnostic procedure.

I’ve have back pain. I’ve had back pain since 2008. I woke up one day in much pain I couldn’t walk. I had sciatic pain. My left leg kept going numb. The doctors just gave me pain meds. After 18 months i was referred to rheumatology. I was told it could be a few things. Learn to live with it. I was 35.

I had access to a private medical insurance and they arranged an MRI. This showed osteoarthritis in the lower 3 vertebrae which they described as “more advanced than we would expect in a person of this age.” The treatment plan changed. They put me on anti-inflammatory medications instead of medication for nerve pain and I had intense physiotherapy to unlock the muscles that had spasmed to protect the joints. Slowly it improved.

Then in 2016 it became quite serious. I woke up one morning and my right buttock, top of my thigh and saddle area were numb. I was rushed to hospital in an ambulance with suspected cauda equina syndrome. I only found out when I got there that this syndrome could result in paralysis or incontinence. I was so scared.

After a battery of tests they decided that I didn’t have cauda equina (phew).

The problem was caused by a disc that had ruptured. The fluid that should be inside the disc was leaking out and apparently the nerves do not like this fluid. The irritation was causing the problem. I was told to stay layed down to allow the fluid to leak slowly and hopefully the pain would subside and the feeling would return.

For 5 months I waited. Slowly the feeling began to return. Slowly the pain lessened and I was able to stand up for more than 5 minutes. I was referred to the pain clinic.

They managed to find a combination of medication that meant I was comfortable enough to return to work. I had a lidocaine patch to apply directly to the area. Tramadol slow release and paracetamol for the pain. They used perifacet joint injections to put steroids into the joints to treat the inflammation and they helped a little. Life returned to normal.

I had a second lot of injections. It didn’t help as much. The GP asked the pain clinic to look at me again. It was at one of these appointments that I asked MrH to consider trying some kink.

The consultant decided to see if I was a candidate for radio frequency nerve ablation.

Today they did this test procedure. I’ve had 10 injections onto the nerves in my spine. They have applied anesthetic directly onto the nerve to see if it provides significant pain relief. I’ve also been told that I have to stop using a heat pillow on my back as it’s causing changes to my skin that could be pre-cancerous.

The procedure itself was excruciating. I cried out and cried. You can see the dots where the needles were put in and the skin discoloration.

But, after I got on the ward and had a moment to calm down. I wiggled. Then I wiggled again.

Then I burst into tears.

For the first time since 2008 I had no pain. None. The relief was overwhelming.

I’m home and I’m still pain free.

If this continues for the next 24/48 hours then the likelihood is that the ablation would provide about 12 months of pain free living. It will mean two surgical procedures because they can’t do 10 at once. So they will do one side then the other.

Still the possibility of being able to stop taking tramadol is exciting, even if it’s just for a year at a time. I’m just trying not to get my hopes up too high.

But for now. I’m going to enjoy being able to wiggle my ass without any pain!

20 Replies to “Medial branch nerve block – test procedure”

    1. Well done. I can’t say I hate it as it’s enabled me to do normal things… But the damage it cases to the body means at the very least, if I can have time off it it would be good.

    1. Hi… This part will only last a few days unfortunately… But I’m still pain free so I think the test is prooved positive at this point and they will go ahead with the ablation. It’s the ablation (where they will burn the nerve .. the idea is to but a lesion on it that will prevent the pain signals … the nerve will regenerate and therefore the pain will return but it should take about a year for that to happen) that will give the year pain free …

      1. I worked in a hospital for spinal cord injured way back in 1980. I had a patient who was in constant pain. He was a high para, but somehow felt constant pain. They did a “nerve block” on him and the pain went away. My hope is it is the same for you.

  1. Wow – I am keeping my fingers crossed for you – I know that nerve pain is very difficult as normal painkillers do not have any impact on it. I had a trapped nerve in my neck for about 4 weeks (16mths ago) and was in tears so often. You have been very brave and I really do wish you well 😉

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