A nerve block may be a treatment option for chronic pain or pain experienced after certain surgeries and medical procedures. It also may reduce pain associated with cancer, such as pain that affects the pancreas in patients with pancreatic cancer. Our Pain Management Department focuses on reducing pain and improving quality of life through an integrative approach to care.
For a nerve block treatment, a local anesthetic is injected into the spine, or into or around the affected nerve. The nerve block interrupts the pain signals sent to the brain, numbs the nerves and may relieve your pain. For chronic pain, nerve blocks may provide relief for six to 12 months.
In addition to pain relief, nerve block treatments may be used for the following:
- Diagnosing the source(s) of pain
- Determining pain response to other treatments, such as surgery
- Preventing pain from certain procedures
- Avoiding surgery
Different types of nerve block treatments address specific areas of the body. These include:
- Sympathetic nerve block: It helps identify damage to the sympathetic nerve chain, a network of nerves along the spine that control involuntary functions such as the opening and narrowing of blood vessels.
- Stellate ganglion block: A type of sympathetic nerve block, it helps find damage to the sympathetic nerve chain supplying the head, neck, chest or arms.
- Facet joint block: It helps identify pain coming from a facet joint, which are located on the back of the spine and restrict spinal movement.
Side effects of nerve block treatment include:
- Soreness at the site of injection
- Elevated blood sugar level
- Weight gain
- Increased energy
You may not be a candidate for a nerve block treatment if you have a disease that affects blood clotting, are taking blood-thinning medication such as heparin or warfarin, have a bowel obstruction or have an uncontrolled infection.