Medial Branch Neurotomy: What to Expect at Home

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Your Recovery

The spine and vertebrae

Facet joints connect your vertebrae to each other. Problems in these joints can cause chronic (long-term) pain in the neck or back. They can sometimes affect the shoulders, arms, buttocks, or legs.

The medial branch nerves are the nerves that carry many of the pain messages from your facet joints.

During your medial branch neurotomy, your doctor used radio waves to damage a nerve in your neck or back to help your pain.

You may feel a little sore or tender at the injection site at first. But after a successful neurotomy, most people have pain relief right away. And it usually lasts for 9 to 12 months or longer. Sometimes the pain relief is permanent.

How can you care for yourself at home?

Activity

  • You may want to do less than normal for a few days. But you may also be able to return to your daily routine.
  • You may shower if your doctor okays it. Do not take a bath for the first 24 hours, or until your doctor tells you it is okay.

Diet

  • You can eat your normal diet.

Medicines

  • Your doctor will tell you if and when you can restart your medicines. He or she will also give you instructions about taking any new medicines.
  • If you take blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), or aspirin, be sure to talk to your doctor. He or she will tell you if and when to start taking those medicines again. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, as your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • You should be able to take your regular medicines again soon after the procedure. Your doctor may give you instructions on when to restart certain medicines, such as aspirin or a blood thinner like Coumadin.

Ice

  • If the area feels sore or tender, put ice or a cold pack on it for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You have severe trouble breathing.
  • You are unable to move an arm or a leg at all.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have new or worse symptoms in your arms, legs, chest, belly, or buttocks. Symptoms may include:
    • Numbness or tingling.
    • Weakness.
    • Pain.
  • You have signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • A fever.
  • You lose bladder or bowel control.

Watch closely for any changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You are not getting better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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Current as of: October 14, 2016