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Your ribs are joined to your spine by the costovertebral joints in your upper back. A variety of conditions can cause pain in this area. A costovertebral block is a procedure that is used both to diagnose and treat the source of pain and inflammation. A “block” uses a medication mixture that contains a local anesthetic and anti-inflammatory medication, such as a steroid medication. Although the results are not permanent, the long-lasting pain relief affords people the opportunity to participate in physical rehabilitation and enjoy their favorite activities again.
The opening in the center of each bone forms the spinal canal. Your spinal cord is located within the protective spinal canal. The spinal cord extends from the brain and is a major part of your nervous system. The spinal cord does not fill the entire space in the spinal canal. Spinal nerves extending from the spinal cord travel out of the thoracic spine to exchange nerve signals with your brain about specific parts of your body. The nerves at the thoracic level travel to the chest, middle back, and arms below the elbows to the fingers, sending information about sensation and movement. Thoracic level nerves supply your internal organs and the muscles that move the ribs when you breathe.
Your doctor will use a live X-ray image (fluoroscopy) to carefully insert and guide the needle to the costovertebral joint. A contrast dye is used to confirm the needle placement. Next, the medication solution is delivered to the costovertebral joint, and the needle is removed.
You will be monitored for several minutes before you can return home. It is common to experience an initial slight increase in pain, followed by pain relief after several days. Most people are able to resume regular daily activities the day after the procedure. Although costovertebral blocks do not offer permanent pain relief, they can provide long-term pain relief to allow you to participate in physical therapy.
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This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.
The iHealthSpot patient education library was written collaboratively by the iHealthSpot editorial team which includes Senior Medical Authors Dr. Mary Car-Blanchard, OTD/OTR/L and Valerie K. Clark, and the following editorial advisors: Steve Meadows, MD, Ernie F. Soto, DDS, Ronald J. Glatzer, MD, Jonathan Rosenberg, MD, Christopher M. Nolte, MD, David Applebaum, MD, Jonathan M. Tarrash, MD, and Paula Soto, RN/BSN. This content complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information. The library commenced development on September 1, 2005 with the latest update/addition on February 16, 2022. For information on iHealthSpot’s other services including medical website design, visit www.iHealthSpot.com.