Nerve Blocks

What are nerve blocks?

A never block, sometimes referred to as a neural blockade, is an anesthesia technique used to prevent and control pain. Non-surgical nerve blocks involve injecting an anesthetic medication on or around specific nerves or nerve bundles that have been identified as the root cause of pain. The medication works by preventing the transmission of pain signals throughout the central nervous system (CNS), thus helping alleviate various painful conditions.

When is a nerve block used to treat pain?

Nerve blocks are very effective at controlling and relieving various forms of pain. Common conditions where nerve blocks are used include:

  • arthritis pain
  • low back pain or sciatica
  • migraines
  • neck pain
  • pain from a herniated disc
  • cancer-related pain
  • pain before and after surgery
  • phantom pains after amputation
  • pain from labor or childbirth
  • as a diagnostic tool to find the source of pain

What are nerve block treatments like?

Before Treatment

Before your nerve block, you may need to stop taking certain medications such as anti-inflammatories and blood thinners. Talk to your doctor about what medications you are taking and if you need to stop taking them.

The Procedure

Nerve blocks are usually performed in a pain management provider's office or outpatient center that has access to imaging equipment such as ultrasound, fluoroscope, or CT scan. Before the injection, a local anesthetic is used to numb the injection site. Using image guidance, your provider will precisely position the needle at the source of your pain. Once the position is confirmed, the anesthetic medication will be injected to reduce or relieve your pain. The procedure is well tolerated by patients. Discomfort will be minimal and will resemble a feeling of pressure.

The injections are usually given in the following areas:

  • spine
  • neck
  • knee
  • shoulder
  • elbow
  • pelvic region
  • clavicle
  • jaw
  • facet joints

After Treatment

After the injection, the area may be sore for several days. Most people return to normal activity within 72 hours of the procedure.

How quickly do nerve blocks work?

Typically patients report pain relief immediately. However, nerve blocks generally provide temporary relief from pain.

How long does the pain relief from a nerve block last?

Generally you can expect the relief to last 8-36 hours, depending on how your body responds and the type of nerve block you receive. Surgical nerve blocks can be permanent and are reserved for chronic pain cases that are unresponsive to other treatments.

Are there any side effects?

Nerve blocks are considered very safe procedures. Although there is minimal risk, potential side effects of nerve blocks include:

  • pain at the injection site
  • infection
  • bruising
  • bleeding
  • damage to nerves
  • blocking the incorrect nerve(s)

These side effect are usually not severe but can last days to weeks.

Nerve blocks may not be right for everyone. Discuss your options with your provider.

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