5 Things You Need to Know About Nerve Blocks
What is a Nerve Block?
A nerve block procedure is a treatment regimen where a concoction of effective drugs is injected just below the myelin sheath of the nerve root. The drugs used are a combination of steroids (which are anti-inflammatory and relieve pressure and swelling), and local anesthetics (which numb the area and relieve pain temporarily).
What are Nerve Blocks used for?
Nerve blocks are mainly used for:
- To diagnose the source of pain. Fluoroscopic examination during the procedure reveals the medication’s travel pathway and its target, which identifies the nerve ending(s) responsible for causing pain.
- To provide temporary relief for chronic pain (which will last for a couple of months). The combination of steroids used stays in the patient’s system for months once injected, and continues to alleviate pain.
Tackling the fear of procedure
Nerve blocks are a near painless procedure that takes 20-30 minutes to complete. Patients are required to stay awake for the length of the process as they need to report if they feel any sudden increase in pain during the procedure. The entire procedure consists of only two injections.
The first injection involves injecting the contrast material into the patient to track the medication pathway. The second injection releases the drug itself in the nerve sheath, which provides instant relief.
How to deal with post procedure soreness?
Because the steroids in the medication take 3-5 days to take effect, many patients report soreness following the procedure. Doctors usually prescribe appropriate medication which can alleviate the increased pain sensation until the steroids take effect.
Every patient responds differently
Even though the average length of steroid response time is 3 days, the steroids may begin to act sooner in one patient’s body, and may not be effective in another patient until 5 days later. This incongruence has nothing to do with the procedure or the quality of drugs used but instead varies from patient to patient.
Medical history and informed injection frequency
If the procedure is successful and alleviates pain, it may be repeated for the patient once the chronic pain starts re-emerging. The procedure is not too risky so it can be repeated many times in one’s lifetime, but experts agree not to perform the procedure more than three times in one year.