When a Nerve Block is Right for You
If you suffer from intense pain, a nerve block may be just what you need to stop the pain. At Southern Pain Specialists, our team aims to get pain under control, so you can get back to the activities you love. Our experienced pain management expert, Kenneth Varley, MD, can help you determine what treatment — including nerve blocks — is right for you.
What is a nerve block?
For the most part, a nerve block is an anesthetic injection that can be used to help pinpoint a nerve that’s causing pain, and it can also be used to help relieve pain. Nerve blocks work by not allowing signals to go from the nerve that’s causing pain to your brain.
Nerve blocks are generally temporary, but their effects can be long lasting. Temporary nerve blocks use chemicals or anesthetics to numb the nerve. In some cases, nerve blocks can be permanent by way of deliberately cutting or damaging the problematic nerve.
Nerve blocks that use chemicals or anesthetics are injected into the epidural space — the fluid-filled space around your spinal cord — to bathe the roots of the problematic nerves in medication. The type of nerve block you get will depend on the severity of your pain along with other factors, such as where your pain is located.
Are you a good candidate?
Generally, nerve blocks are used if you suffer from a chronic pain condition that has not been helped with more conservative measures. Before recommending a nerve block, Dr. Varley will go over your medical and pain history and perform any necessary imaging studies, such as an X-ray or MRI.
Some of the conditions that a nerve block can help include:
- Chronic regional pain syndrome
- Pain from herniated discs
- Arthritis pain
- Post-surgical pain
You may need several injections throughout the year, depending on how well it works and where you’re affected.
Understanding the procedure
When you get a nerve block, you’ll be under mild sedation. First, Dr. Varley will clean the area that will receive the injection to prevent infection. Then he’ll inject a medication to help decrease any discomfort.
Once you’re sedated, Dr. Varley will use a special type of imaging, known as fluoroscopy, to determine the exact location for the injection. Once he inserts the needle, he may inject a dye that he’ll be able to see on the X-ray to make sure he’s in the right spot.
Once Dr. Varley determines he’s in the area of the nerve that’s causing your pain, he’ll inject an anesthetic medication to relieve your discomfort. As soon as the medication is injected, you should feel significantly less pain.
Depending on the case, you may need more than one injection to properly cover the affected area. Once you’re done, you’ll rest for about 30 minutes to let the medication take full effect. You’ll also be monitored during that time to make sure you don’t have any side effects from the procedure.