What to Know Before Getting a Nerve Block

Constant pain can be a distressing sensory experience and a physically debilitating condition that can sometimes be challenging to diagnose and treat. Acute pain can stem from tissue injury, inflammation, surgical procedures, childbirth, or disease processes. Pain can also be characterized as cancer-related, chronic, neuropathic due to nerve damage, or psychogenic.

Fortunately, there is a reprieve. Nerve block injections can provide temporary pain relief for people who suffer from chronic pain. A nerve block injection allows damaged nerves to regenerate from constant inflammation or irritation. If you or a loved one suffers from unrelenting pain, keep reading to learn more about nerve blocks and how the specialists at Orthopedic & Laser Spine Surgery can help.

What and How a Nerve Block Is Administered

Every part of the body is served by a group of plexus nerves that send pain signals when injured. To stop pain transmission, the nerve signals must be blocked. A nerve block is an anti-inflammatory or anesthetic injection that targets the said group of nerves to alleviate pain and reduce inflammation in that area.

You will be sedated during the procedure to help you relax. Your doctor then uses an ultrasound, fluoroscopy, or computed tomography (CT) scan to help guide the nerve block needle in the appropriate location. It ensures you get the most out of the injection.

Types of Nerve Blocks and How Long They Last

Nerve blocks can be either temporary or permanent. Regardless of the type, the goal is to deliberately cut or destroy specific nerves and block pain signals to the treatment site. Many types of nerve blocks exist, but the most commonly used are:

  • Epidural nerve blocks: These stop pain or provide relief and a complete lack of feeling during labor and childbirth.
  • Lumbar sympathetic nerve block: These help relieve pain in the lower back and legs caused by sciatica. They also calm the sympathetic nerves that lead to pain on both sides of the spine and lower back.
  • Genicular nerve block: Chronic knee pain or surgeries that result in moderate to severe postoperative knee can benefit from this nerve block.

Sometimes, patients may need more than one nerve block if the doctor deems it appropriate. How well the nerve block works to control pain depends on the type of operation you have and the nerve block used.

Some doctors also prescribe pain relievers as pills to be taken at home. Each scenario differs, and the time during which a patient experiences pain relief is unpredictable. The goal is to work with a team of surgeons, doctors, and pain specialists who can tailor your treatment to your unique pain management needs.

Potential Side Effects of Nerve Blocks

Like anything else, risks are associated with nerve blocks, even though they are uncommon. Some side effects, however, may include bleeding, soreness, or infection at the injection site. You may feel a slight pinch as the doctor inserts the injection. However, once the medication is delivered, you should feel less pain.

Although it may be uncomfortable initially, it’s advisable to remain still so that your doctor can insert the needle correctly. Certain procedures require you to stay awake to communicate with your surgeon during surgery. Also, depending on your reaction, some general anesthesia will leave you with residual confusion and cognitive impairment when you wake up. You may also experience heaviness or numbness due to the nerve block.

Note that while nerve blocks often work as intended, they may sometimes fail as well. Some patients can find relief from a single nerve block procedure, whereas others require a series of injections before they can start living a pain-free life. For example, someone who has endured acute pain for years may require multiple pain procedures. 

Everybody responds differently to nerve blocks, so diagnosing the root cause is crucial. The sooner you identify the source of your pain, the earlier you can begin a nerve-blocking regimen before your condition worsens and necessitates surgery. Depending on your pain, nerve block injections can be combined with conservative therapies or minimally invasive treatments to improve overall function and your chances of recovery.

Consult a Skilled Doctor at Orthopedic & Laser Spine Surgery About Getting Nerve Blocks Today

Until recently, powerful opioid medications like oxycodone were routinely prescribed to help surgery patients with pain. Many people today want to avoid opioids because they are highly addictive and have unpleasant side effects such as nausea, confusion, constipation, sluggishness, and drowsiness.

A nerve block can be used as a strategy to help limit the intake of prescription drugs, which were considered to be effective in pain management yet pose serious health risks when misused. If you’re unsure whether you are a good candidate for a nerve block, we can help you determine eligibility and tailor our recommendations based on accurate pain diagnosis. Talk with a specialized Orthopedic & Laser Spine Surgery member at (855) 853-6542 or complete our contact form to book an appointment today.

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