When dealing day in and day out with chronic or acute pain, finding the right diagnosis or treatment plan can be difficult. Pain can affect every hour of your day, interfering with work, play, or trying to get comfortable enough to sleep at night. For some patients, physicians may recommend nerve block injections to help address these issues. Though nerve block injections may not be an option for all cases of pain, we wanted to educate potential patients on what they are, potential scenarios when physicians may recommend them, and what to expect.
How do Nerve Block Injections Work?
A nerve block injection is the injection of an opioid, steroid, local anesthetic, ethanol, or other medical substances directly onto or near nerves to relieve pain. It works by temporarily “blocking” pain signals being sent to your brain by the affected area. Nerve block injections can also be used in severe cases to destroy the affected nerves altogether. Each of these cases should be determined and administered by a physician.
Some other scenarios when your physician may recommend a nerve block injection:
- To isolate the source of chronic or acute pain
- To reduce inflammation of an injured area and allow natural healing to take place
- To provide short-term pain relief after surgery or other medical treatments
- To act as a local anesthetic during small procedures, such as a finger injury
- To act as a predictor for more permanent treatments, for example to anticipate the long-term pain outcome of surgery
The needle must be properly placed for maximum benefit. Often, a well-placed injection can inform a physician of the source of the pain, which allows them to guide the patient towards further treatment. So a nerve block injection may just be one step in a patient’s pain relief journey.
What Should I Anticipate During the Appointment?
If your physician has recommended a nerve block injection for your condition, here are a few things you can anticipate about your appointment.
First, other than coming in comfortable clothing, there is little personal preparation needed on your part. Second, parts of the procedure may feel similar to a routine vaccination: A syringe will be used and you will momentarily feel the prick of a needle. From there, the similarities diverge but the end result will be a temporary or permanent relief of pain.
As you lie on the examination table, your physician may use a small amount of contrast to confirm the needle is being placed as close to the target nerve as possible. Imaging equipment is also used to pinpoint the best location for the injection. The imaging equipment could include fluoroscopy, CT, or X-rays, all of which are painless and are primarily there to help your physician administer the injection to the right place. In the case of a CT, you will be placed inside the machine but will be able to hear your physician communicate with you throughout the process through a speaker and microphone.
Once your physician makes the injection, often you will feel immediate relief from pain. This relief may last up to two weeks or, depending on how many injections you have received, may offer long-term relief.
Nerve Block Risks or Side Effects
As mentioned previously, not all painful conditions should be treated with nerve block injections, especially if your pain includes more than one nerve cluster. In addition, all treatments come with potential side effects. Your physician should educate you on the potential risks of nerve blocks, some of which include:
- Weight gain
- Soreness at the site of injection
- Elevated blood sugar
- Death (in rare cases)
As you can see, there are many options for nerve block injections to treat chronic or acute pain. If you want to evaluate the role nerve block injections could play in your life, discuss them with your primary doctor as a possible treatment option. If you would like to learn more about our treatment options here at Advanced Surgical Hospital, head to our Contact Us page.