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Medial Branch Neurotomy

Back or neck pain may be due to problems with certain nerves near your spine. If so, a medial branch neurotomy can help relieve your pain.  In some cases, your doctor may give you a nerve block to predict your response to neurotomy. The treatment uses heat, cold, radiofrequency, or chemicals to destroy the nerves near a problem joint. This keeps some pain messages from traveling to your brain, and helps relieve your symptoms.

Image of man standing with heavy box. Man looks like he pulled a muscle.

Medial Branch Nerves

Each vertebra in your spine has facets (flat surfaces). They touch where the vertebrae fit together. This forms a facet joint. Each facet joint has at least two medial branch nerves. They are part of the nerve pathway to and from each facet joint. A facet joint in your back or neck can become inflamed (swollen and irritated). Pain messages may then travel along the nerve pathway from the facet joint to your brain.

Image of facet joint and medial branch nerve

Blocking Pain Messages

Medial branch nerves in each facet joint send and carry messages about back or neck pain. Destroying a few of these nerves can keep certain pain messages from reaching your brain. This can help bring you relief.

Risks and Complications

Risks and complications are rare, but can include:

  • Infection

  • Increased pain, numbness, or weakness

  • Nerve damage

  • Bleeding

  • Failure to relieve pain

Online Medical Reviewer: newMentor board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Online Medical Reviewer: Ziegler, Olivia Walton, MS, PA-C
Last Review Date: 3/7/2013
© 2000-2014 Krames StayWell, 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.