A nerve block is a pain-relieving injection. The effects of a nerve block differ from patient to patient and might last from a few days to several months. Therapeutic nerve blocks can treat back and neck pain and various types of acute and chronic pain.
Often, it is enough to encourage people to start a physiotherapy or rehabilitation program for long-term relief. To maintain results and complete their treatment plan, patients may need to repeat the treatment.
A nerve block is the only method of treating pain. Discuss your pain management options with your doctor to understand which ones are right for you.
Dr. Gurneet Sawhney, one of the best neurosurgeon in Mulund, Mumbai, take an evidence-based approach to pain management. He always considers non-surgical options before suggesting surgery.
In addition to conservative treatments such as OTC medication, physiotherapy, and an anti-inflammatory diet, Dr. Gurneet Sawhney may examine nerve blocks if he wants to be very specific with diagnosing the exact location of the pain.
For example, if you are suffering from radiculopathy at the L4 nerve or sciatica in a particular nerve root. Nerve blocks include spinal injections such as facet joint injections and sacroiliac joint injections.
Please continue reading below to learn about nerve blocks, their benefits, associated risks, and more.
What exactly is a nerve block?
A nerve block is an injection of medication administered into a specific area of the nerve or nerves to treat pain. Depending on the type of medication, a nerve block either lowers inflammation or impairs the ability of nerves to transmit pain signals to the central nervous system.
The results of nerve blocks can range in duration from a few hours to several months. However, surgical nerve blocks are less common and can remove or destroy nerves permanently and provide long-term pain relief.
Now, let’s understand,
When is a nerve block performed?
Dr. Gurneet Sawhney, a seasoned brain doctor in Mulund, Mumbai, may suggest a nerve block for two reasons:
- Diagnosing the exact location of the pain. Your doctor will inject an anesthetic drug around a specific nerve or spinal joint. If it relieves the pain, that nerve or joint was causing the pain. If it is ineffective in reducing pain, your doctor will look for another cause of pain.
- Treating pain. Your doctor can administer anesthetics or long-acting anti-inflammatory medicines to ease pain and alleviate the swelling.
Your doctor may prescribe a nerve block for the following conditions:
- Acute pain resulting from nerve injury or damage.
- Chronic pain due to neuralgias, nerve compression, spinal fractures, disc problems, and arthritis.
- Persisting pain resulting from blood vessel spasms or pain syndromes.
How does a nerve block work?
- Nerve blocks assist in healing the injured or damaged nerve. Though nerve blocks usually only provide short-term pain relief, they can help your body repair. It can also help your doctor identify the underlying condition.
- Nerve blocks can be performed as an outpatient procedure. During the process, the patient is positioned on the back or side.
- To administer a nerve block, the doctor may use a CT scan, ultrasound, or fluoroscopy to identify the exact location to inject the nerve block.
- Then, the doctor will use a needle to administer the nerve block medication. The most common drugs used in nerve blocks are local anesthetics and steroids.
What are types of nerve blocks?
Nerve blocks might last for the short or long term. Doctors may administer a local anesthetic for numbing the area where the needle penetrates the skin. They can also cut or remove specific nerves during neurosurgery to limit pain signals to a particular region.
There are several types of surgical nerve blocks:
- Sympathetic blockade. Neurosurgeons often inject a drug to block the pain from the sympathetic nervous system in a specific region.
- Neurectomy. It is the procedure that involves surgical removal of damaged peripheral nerve.
- Rhizotomy. The surgeon removes the root of the nerves extending from the spine.
Following are the different types of nonsurgical nerve blocks:
- Epidural analgesia or anesthesia. The doctor may inject medicine outside the spinal cord.
- Spinal anesthesia or analgesia. The doctor may inject the drug into the fluid that surrounds the spinal cord.
- Peripheral nerve blockade. The doctor may administer medication around a target nerve that is causing discomfort.
Your doctor may determine the best nerve block for you based on the exact location of the pain.
Are you an ideal candidate for a nerve block?
- If conservative treatments fail to relieve chronic neck, spine, or back pain, your doctor may prescribe a nerve block.
- Nerve blocks can benefit patients suffering from specific nerve or nerve root pain or discomfort.
- During labor and delivery, if the woman experiences unbearable labor pain, gynecologists often administer epidurals, one of the common types of nerve block.
- Patients who have had surgery may potentially benefit from nerve blocks.
You may be ineligible for nerve block if you:
- Have an infection at the injection site.
- Have a bleeding disorder or are on anticoagulants.
- Have previous neural problems in the location of the nerve being injected.
What are the advantages of nerve blocks?
- Nerve blocks can provide instant pain relief.
- They allow the inflamed area to recover while also relieving discomfort.
- Also, it makes physiotherapy and other activities possible to help with the underlying problem.
- Nerve blocks are less-invasive.
- It can be administered in an outpatient setting.
What are the disadvantages or risks of nerve blocks?
- Many nerve blocks have the disadvantage of only providing short-term pain relief.
- While nerve blocks allow the damaged nerve to heal, they do not always address the underlying problem causing the pain.
- Multiple nerve blocks may be needed to achieve effective results in some cases.
- Nerve blocks are relatively safe and have less chance of infection and bleeding.
However, you may experience some soreness or swelling at the site of injection.
What factors should I consider before getting a nerve block for back or neck pain?
- Nerve blocks are only helpful if the source of your pain is a single nerve or a group of nerves that can be easily reached.
- Like with any surgical procedure, you should carefully discuss the pros and cons of nerve blocks with your doctor.
- Also, be sure you fully understand the pain relief that nerve blocks may or may not provide for your particular situation.
- Ask your doctor about any additional injections or procedures that may be required to attain the pain relief you desire.
How long does it take to recover after a nerve block?
- You should have someone drive you home if you have any discomfort or numbness after the procedure.
- Your doctor may advise applying ice to the affected area or taking over-the-counter pain relievers.
- You should take it easy on the day of your procedure.
- You can resume normal activities the next day.
When should you contact your doctor?
Following a nerve block, it's critical to keep your follow-up appointments. If you have any concerns in between consultations, contact your doctor. Call your doctor right away or get medical help if you have:
- Difficulty breathing
- Dizziness or fainting
- Drainage from the site of injection
- New or unexplained symptoms
- Uncontrolled pain
- Persistent weakness, numbness, or tingling in the arms or legs
- Severe or chronic headache or back discomfort
- Rash or skin irritation
If a nerve block does not relieve your pain, your doctor may discuss other treatment options.
A nerve block is generally safe, and most patients may return to their routine the next day. Depending on the patient's condition, the doctor may recommend several treatments, including physiotherapy or pain relievers