How Are Nerve Block Injections Used?
Nerves in the body called a plexus or ganglions, can cause pain. This pain can be “turned off” by using a specific type of injection that blocks the pain signals from reaching the brain and this is known as a nerve block.
Nerve block injections are very common and are used to treat chronic pain when medications or other treatments prove to be ineffective or cause negative side effects. They allow for a damaged nerve proper time to heal, provide temporary pain relief, and can be used to identify a specific cause of pain.
Why are Nerve Block Injections Used?
Nerve blocks are used for a variety of purposes. Since pain is such an individual experience, nerve blocks are also used to help physicians diagnose the source of pain by measuring the patient’s response to the injection. This is helpful to determine a comprehensive treatment plan.
Types of Nerve Blocks
Since nerve blocks can be used for a variety of purposes to help reduce, treat, and prevent pain, it is no surprise that there are many different types of nerve blocks.
The benefit of nerve blocks is that they can be used in almost every area of the body to treat pain. Because of this, there are different nerve block types. Not every type of pain should be treated equally. Here are few types of nerve blocks that are available and why they may be utilized in your pain management treatments:
- Therapeutic nerve block: This type of nerve block contains a local anesthetic to control acute pain.
- Prognostic nerve blocks: These are used to help your physician predict the effectiveness and outcome of a given treatment.
- Diagnostic nerve block: This block contains an anesthetic that helps relieve pain and helps pain specialists determine the root cause of chronic or acute pain.
- Sympathetic nerve block: This type of block is used to determine if there is any type of damage or injury to the sympathetic nerve chain - the network of nerves that extends the length of the spine.
- Preemptive nerve blocks: These types of nerve blocks are meant to prevent pain after a surgery that can cause issues like phantom limb pain.
How are Nerve Blocks Performed?
Nerve block injections use imaging guidance. . This allows the physician to place the needle in the most accurate location for the injection to be most beneficial.
A small needle will be inserted through the skin and directed towards the injection site. A small amount of contrast material may be used to confirm needle placement in the appropriate location. The injection itself will be administered with a syringe much like one that would be used for a routine vaccination. The type of medication used depends on individual patient needs.
This is typically performed as an outpatient procedure and only takes a few minutes to administer.
In some cases, more than one injection may be required, depending on the area of pain that needs to be covered. The medication will go into effect rather quickly, but the doctor will have you stay in the office to ensure there are no immediate and unexpected side effects.
Side Effects and Risks of Nerve Blocks
Nerve blocks are safe, however, like any procedure and injection, there is always a risk involved. Typically, nerve blocks carry fewer side effects than other types of medication.
Some side effects include:
- Injection site soreness and tenderness
- Damage to nerves
- Elevated blood sugar
- Horner’s syndrome
Nerve blocks provide temporary relief from pain and the results can vary from patient to patient. Speak to your doctor about your options when it comes to relieving your pain so you can determine a course of action.