The human nervous system is astonishingly complex.
To relay vital messages throughout the body, as many as 2,500 electrical signals can pass along a single nerve cell, or neuron, in just one second. If the nervous system is damaged, nerve signals can go awry and cause intense pain to an organ or body region.
Quite often, it’s a group of nerves—called a plexus or ganglion—that is at the root of the pain. The good news is, the pain signals from these damaged nerves can be disrupted by an injection of a nerve-numbing medication—called a nerve block—that can decrease inflammation or “turn off” a pain signal.
Nerve blocks have many uses
When administered by a trained Pain and Spine Specialist, nerve blocks—with medications that can include steroids, local anesthetics—can provide periods of dramatic pain relief. Unlike with oral medication, a nerve block can be delivered directly to the part of the body that’s in pain. There are many kinds of nerve blocks available:
- Therapeutic nerve blocks use a local anesthetic to provide relief to the damaged nerve and control acute or sharp, sudden pain. Therapeutic nerve blocks can treat pain in many parts of the body, including the face, eyelids, scalp, forehead, upper jaw, nose, neck, back, abdomen, pelvis, shoulder, elbow and wrist.
- Diagnostic nerve blocks are temporary blocks that are used to help pinpoint the source of a patient’s pain.
- Prognostic nerve blocks are used to predict the outcomes of given treatments. For example, to determine if more permanent treatments—such as surgery—would be successful in treating pain.
- Preemptive nerve blocks are used to prevent pain that might occur form a scheduled procedure rather than address existing discomfort.
- Sympathetic nerve blocks can be used to determine if there is damage to the sympathetic nerve chain, which controls some of the involuntary functions of the body.
- Stellate ganglion blocks are used to diagnose any damage to the sympathetic nerve chain that supplies the head, neck, chest or arms.
- Facet joint blocks can help determine whether a facet joint in the spine is a source of pain.
- Epidural nerve blocks are corticosteroid injections into the interior surface of the spinal canal to decrease pain and inflammation caused by a herniated disc, sciatica or spinal stenosis.
Is a nerve block right for you?
For people suffering from acute or chronic pain, nerve blocks can relieve suffering and provide a better ability to function in daily life. If you’re wondering if a nerve block is right for you, start by working with a Pain and Spine Specialist to get your pain properly diagnosed.