How Do Spinal Nerve Blocks Work and How Long Do They Last?

Spinal nerve blocks are a vital tool in modern medicine, and they are often employed for diagnostic, therapeutic, and surgical purposes. By selectively blocking the transmission of pain signals along specific spinal nerves, these procedures offer temporary relief to patients suffering from acute or chronic pain conditions.

At Orthopedic & Laser Spine Surgery in Florida, our specialists use spinal nerve blocks to anesthetize specific areas of the body to help with any pain you may be experiencing. In this article, we will discuss the basics of how this type of procedure works, its duration, and the conditions it can treat.

Types of Nerve Block: A Concise Overview

Nerve blocks are classified into four primary categories, which include:

Preemptive Nerve Blocks

These are distinct from the other types of nerve blocks because they are used to prevent pain from occurring in the first place. The primary goal is to reduce the development of chronic pain by blocking pain receptors before the pain can even occur. This can help to reduce the long-term effects of pain and improve the patient’s recovery time.

Therapeutic Nerve Blocks

This type is used to treat a variety of painful conditions, including chronic pain, headaches, and nerve injuries. In this instance, the nerve block is injected with a local anesthetic to temporarily interrupt the transmission of pain signals to help treat any pain, effectively improving patients’ quality of life.

Diagnostic Nerve Blocks

Containing a lower-level anesthetic, these help pinpoint a patient’s pain source by providing temporary relief. By injecting a local anesthetic into the affected area, a doctor can identify the source of the pain and determine the best course of treatment.

Prognostic Nerve Blocks

These are typically performed after a corrective procedure, such as surgery. The purpose is to evaluate the effectiveness of a treatment as well as to assess the risk of recurrence. It can also help determine the after-care methods of pain reduction that will be needed as the patient recovers.

How Do Spinal Nerve Blocks Work?

Spinal nerve blocks involve the injection of anesthetic medication close to specific spinal nerves. These nerves are responsible for transmitting sensory information, including pain, from different body regions to the brain. 

Depending on the desired outcome, physicians may perform different types of spinal nerve blocks, such as:

Sympathetic Nerve Blocks

Sympathetic nerve blocks serve as diagnostic tools to assess potential damage to the sympathetic nerve chain, a collection of nerves that extend along the spine and regulate involuntary bodily functions. 

Stellate Ganglion Blocks

Stellate ganglion blocks, a subtype of sympathetic blocks, are employed to pinpoint damage to sympathetic nerves in the head, neck, chest, and arms, offering targeted evaluation for these regions.

Epidural Nerve Block

This procedure involves injecting the anesthetic medication into the epidural space, located just outside the outermost membrane surrounding the spinal cord. Epidural nerve blocks are commonly used for pain management for labor, post-surgical pain relief, and the treatment of chronic back pain. 

Selective Nerve Root Block (SNRB)

This type of block targets specific spinal nerve roots and is primarily used for diagnostic purposes. Utilizing fluoroscopy, a potent anti-inflammatory steroid is administered to a targeted nerve root. By isolating the source of pain, physicians can determine the appropriate course of treatment.

Facet Joint Block

In this procedure, the anesthetic is injected into or around the facet joints, which are small joints located between the vertebrae. This technique is employed to treat pain arising from facet joint dysfunction or arthritis

How Long Do Spinal Nerve Blocks Work?

Depending on the underlying condition, the physician may opt for a short-, medium-, or long-acting spinal nerve block.

Short-acting spinal nerve blocks typically last between 8 and 36 hours and are the most common type of nerve block used in patients with chronic pain. It is typically used for conditions such as post-operative pain, labor and delivery, or acute pain.

Medium-acting spinal nerve blocks can last up to three months. In some cases, the physician will use a corticosteroid with the nerve block to prolong its effect. It is typically used to treat chronic pain.

Long-acting spinal nerve blocks can last up to two years, however, this type of nerve block has the most side effects. The treatment involves completely severing or burning the nerve ends to prevent the transmission of pain signals. This type of nerve block is typically used in patients with very severe, intractable pain. These types of nerve blocks can cause permanent nerve damage and are not a permanent solution, as the nerve can grow back after a couple of years.

Post-Nerve Block Expectations

After a nerve block, temporary numbness or soreness is common, as well as minor redness or irritation at the injection site, which should improve over time. For surgical blocks, a designated rest period and possible hospital stay may be necessary for recovery. However, know that persistent pain doesn’t always indicate failure, as some nerve blocks can cause swelling that needs time to subside.

Explore Spinal Nerve Blocks with Orthopedic & Laser Spine Surgery 

Spinal nerve blocks are a valuable tool in managing pain and assisting in the diagnosis of various conditions. By temporarily blocking pain signal transmission along specific spinal nerves, these procedures can provide patients with relief and an improved quality of life.

At Orthopedic & Laser Spine Surgery in Florida, our spine specialists employ various types of spinal nerve blocks to treat acute and chronic pain. To find out if you are a candidate for spinal nerve block therapy, contact us online or call us at (855) 853-6542 today and schedule a consultation.

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