Chronic or acute pain can interrupt every aspect of your life, making it hard to get through the day because the pain is too intense. While pain medications might be an option for temporary relief, it’s necessary to take the medications over and over again when the results wear off.
Often, patients don’t want to take pills throughout the day. So, they look for alternative treatments to alleviate pain and support overall health and wellness.
Nerve blocks offer one option that can provide relief. One nerve block treatment can target a specific group of nerves, stopping the pain signals that are affecting your symptoms.
What Is a Nerve Block?
When pain occurs, there is usually a specific group of nerves (known as a ganglion or plexus) that causes pain to the particular body area or organ. When treatment targets this group of nerves, it’s possible to alleviate symptoms.
A nerve block involves the injection of a substance that numbs the nerves to alleviate symptoms. These procedures are often used to manage different types of pain, especially when pain medications aren’t sufficient for pain relief.
When a nerve block is applied, it helps with pain reduction because it stops the messages coming from the nerves to the brain.
Not only can nerve blocks be used for pain relief, but they can also be used for a total loss of feeling when necessary. For example, injectable nerve blocks are sometimes used after surgery.
One example of a nerve block that is commonly used is an epidural during childbirth. Blocking these nerves helps to alleviate pain and discomfort during labor and delivery. Or nerve blocks are often used to treat back pain by targeting pinched nerves in the spinal column.
Benefits of Nerve Blocks
Is a nerve block right for you? If your pain management specialist recommends a nerve block, you can learn about the potential benefits to determine if this treatment is right for your unique needs.
- Treating Different Types of Pain: One notable benefit is that nerve blocks can be used to address different types of pain, including chronic pain, post-surgery pain, or acute pain after an injury.
- Immediate and Long-Term Relief: It’s common for the nerve block to include an anesthetic that stops the pain immediately. If a patient receives immediate relief, the doctor knows that the correct area was treated. Then, other medications in the injection offer long-term results because of the anti-inflammatory benefits.
- Return to Normal Function: Is pain stopping you from regular activities at work and home? One notable benefit of a nerve block is that you can function better in your daily life. Many people find that they are able to work and do daily tasks and can also implement other treatment solutions, such as exercise and physical therapy, to assist with long-term benefits.
Temporary nerve blocks might only last a few hours, which means that the pain will return when the medication wears off. For example, these types of nerve blocks might be used after surgery.
A long-term or repeated nerve block treatment might be necessary when treating chronic pain.
How Is a Nerve Block Administered?
Several medical tools are required for the proper delivery of a nerve block. The doctor will use a needle to inject the nerve-blocking medication and an ultrasound, fluoroscope, or CT scan to guide the needle. Guided images ensure that the anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving medications are delivered to the specific area requiring treatment. Electrical stimulation is sometimes used to locate the nerves causing pain.
Or nerve blocks can also be done using surgical intervention. For example, the surgeon might deliberately destroy or cut specific nerves during surgery to minimize pain post-surgery.
Depending on a patient’s unique needs, there are varying types of nerve blocks.
- Injectable Medications: The doctor injects medications into the affected area. Sometimes this type of nerve block includes different types of medications to provide immediate relief and longer-lasting results from anti-inflammatory drugs.
- Neurectomy or Rhizotomy: During surgery, the doctor might damage a peripheral nerve to minimize postoperative pain. Rhizotomy is a method where the root of the nerves is destroyed.
For injectable nerve-blocking medications, the type of medication and method for injection varies depending on the patient and the treatment area. For example, a nerve block for back pain might be injected outside the spinal cord or into the fluid surrounding the spinal cord.
Typical Uses for Nerve Block Treatments
When will a pain management specialist recommend a nerve block? If the nerves are inflamed, damaged, or irritated, a nerve block might be the ideal treatment to help you find relief.
Your healthcare provider may recommend a nerve block to address your symptoms when nerve damage or inflammation affects your symptoms. These blocks can be used for different parts of the body, including the back, legs, arms, buttocks, and neck.
- Labor and delivery pain
- Pain related to cancer and associated treatments
- Arthritis pain
- Low back pain
- Post-surgery pain
- Facial pain
- Migraines and recurring headaches
- Chronic regional pain syndrome
Nerve Blocks for Diagnostics
In addition to using nerve blocks for pain relief, sometimes doctors will recommend these treatments as a method to identify what is causing your pain. The injection and results can help a doctor identify where the pain is coming from to address root cause issues.
The more information your healthcare provider has about your pain, the better the treatment plan going forward. Often, a nerve block is just one tool used in your ongoing treatment process.
Are There Any Potential Complications from Nerve Blocks?
As with any type of medical treatment, potential risks could occur. For example, when the needle is pieced into the skin, it could potentially cause infection or bleeding at the site where the shot is given. Another possible complication could be if the medication spills into other areas.
The good news is that nerve blocks are quite safe, especially compared with other pain treatment procedures. For example, the possible complications from a nerve block are much lower compared to the potential issues that can occur after surgery.
But certain factors could mean you are not a good candidate for a nerve block.
- Current infection in the injection site
- Patients with bleeding disorders
- Prior issues with nerve blocks in the past.
How Long Is a Nerve Block Supposed to Last?
The results from a nerve block can be temporary or long-lasting, depending on the method used and the treatment area. Most of the time, patients receive anywhere from a few days to a few weeks of relief after a nerve block treatment.
It’s important to note that every person responds differently. Some people experience great results from just one injection, while others need multiple treatments to achieve the desired results.
Consult with Our Pain Management Experts
How do you know if a nerve block is an ideal treatment for your symptoms? The best solution is to schedule a consultation to talk to a pain management specialist. In addition to nerve blocks, we also offer a variety of other treatments and full-service pain management support.
Kentuckiana Pain Specialists is here to help you live your best life by reducing pain and associated symptoms. If you are looking for alternative pain management options, we invite you to schedule a consultation at our Louisville, Kentucky, office. Call us at (502) 995-4004.