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Pain-Treatment

Pain-Treatment (1)

02 Nov

So your doctor says you need a nerve block, but you’ve never even heard of this type of procedure before. You start thinking: What will this entail? Will it hurt? And, most importantly, will it really help relieve my pain? Let this in-depth look at nerve blocks answer all your most pressing questions.

Definition and Types

Nerve blocks do what the name implies: They block the pain signals traveling along a nerve or a group of nerves before they get to the brain.[1] Nerves work like sensory superhighways, transmitting sensations – like pain – from the source to the brain. Blocks involve injecting various types of medications around the nerve or nerves to stop the transmission of pain.

There are two main types of nerve blocks that may be performed at different points in the body; some nerve blocks will be diagnostic, helping doctors find the source of the pain to better determine future treatment, while other blocks may be therapeutic, providing prolonged pain relief.

  • Diagnostic blocks are utilized to determine if a specific nerve or nerves are the source of the problem. During this procedure, a doctor will inject a temporary numbing agent around the nerves, which – if the right nerves were targeted – will relieve pain for a few hours or days. You will then be told to go about your day, moving around as normal and monitoring your pain levels for signs of improvement. If you and your doctor deem the block successful, you may have another block to verify these results, or just move on to a more lasting treatment option, like radiofrequency neuroablation.
  • Therapeutic blocks aim to relieve pain for a longer period of time. This is due to the type of medication injected around the nerves, which will include an anesthetic for short-term relief and an anti-inflammatory medication for longer relief.

Procedure Overview

To begin, you may be given sedation to help you relax, but you will remain awake during the procedure. Your provider will use a local anesthetic to numb the area around the nerves that are being treated. Using a state-of-the-art X-ray device called a fluoroscope, along with contrast dye that’s been injected into the region, your physician will locate the nerve or nerves that may be causing the problem. A mixture of pain-relieving medications will then be injected around the nerves.

Following the procedure, you will usually be able to go home in about 30 minutes. After a nerve block, people may feel soreness at the site of the injection.

Therapeutic Outcomes

The ultimate goals of therapeutic nerve blocks are similar to those of many other procedures: decrease pain, increase function, decrease opioid usage and increase the ability to perform physical therapy. Yet everyone responds differently to different procedures and nerve blocks are no exception.

After the nerve block procedure, it’s possible that the pain may return after the anesthetic wears off but before the anti-inflammatory medication takes effect. This is normal and should decrease within a few days. Usually, more than one injection will be required to provide sustained relief from pain, and relief may last longer after each injection. The amount and frequency of these injections will depend on your specific condition.

Learn More

To learn more about nerve blocks, including if they may be right to help treat or diagnose your condition, please schedule a consultation with one of our experienced pain management providers by calling (888) 901-PAIN. You can also learn more on our treatment pages:

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[1] “ViewMedica Patient Engagement Videos.” Swarm Interactive 2016. Accessed October 6, 2016. http://www.viewmedica.com/.

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