Treating Chronic Pain

Nerve blocks are a common form of therapy used to treat and manage chronic pain. Groups of nerves that cause pain to a particular region or area of the body can typically be blocked via injections of medication also known as nerve blocks. These nerve blocks are numbing substances that numb the nerves signaling a patient’s pain. 

Four Categories Of Nerve Blocks 

Nerve blocks are typically categorized into four main categories. These four nerve block categories include: therapeutic, diagnostic, prognostic, and pre-emptive. 

  • Therapeutic nerve blocks are used to treat chronic pain and various pain conditions. These nerve blocks typically contain local anesthetic which can be used to treat acute pain. Studies have shown these nerve blocks to be effective in improving the quality of life for patients with chronic pain. 
  • Diagnostic nerve blocks are issued to identify the source of a patient’s pain. These blocks contain a lower level anesthetic that provides a duration of pain relief. 
  • Prognostic nerve blocks identify the prognosis of certain treatments. For example, a prognostic nerve block may be issued to determine if a permanent solution, such as surgery, would be a more successful route to alleviate the patient’s pain. 
  • Preemptive nerve blocks are unique in that they are used to prevent subsequent pain often seen as the results of a procedure. This includes symptoms such as phantom limb pain. 

Nerve blocks are also broken down into more specific categories based on the type of pain or location of pain that the patient is experiencing. These specific nerve blocks are sympathetic, stellate ganglion, and facet joint blocks. 

  • Sympathetic nerve blocks are performed to determine if there is existing damage to the sympathetic nerve chain. This includes a network of nerves that run the entire length of the spine and are responsible for controlling the body’s involuntary functions. 
  • Stellate ganglion blocks are a type of sympathetic block that are also used to identify damage to the sympathetic nerves. However, stellate ganglion blocks are used more specifically to identify nerve damage to the head, neck, chest, and arms. 
  • Facet joint blocks are conducted in the facet joints of the spine and are also known as zygapophysial blocks. These are used to determine whether a facet joint is the cause of pain. 

Nerve Blocks by Location

Nerve blocks can be injected in various areas depending on the cause and location of a patient’s pain. Some of the most common nerve blocks by anatomical location include…

  • Trigeminal nerve blocks for Trigeminal Neuralgia (face) 
  • Subarachnoid and Celiac nerve blocks (abdomen and pelvis)
  • Supraorbital nerve blocks (forehead)
  • Cervical, Thoracic, and Lumbar epidurals (neck and back)
  • Maxillary nerve block (jaw) 

Side Effects

While studies have shown that nerve blocks can be highly effective in treating chronic pain, there is always a possibility of side effects. Everyone’s body reacts differently to medical treatments, but common side effects may include soreness at the injection site, rash, itching, bleeding, elevated blood sugars, and extra energy. While this may not happen to everyone, it is important to contact your doctor if you begin experiencing side effects outside of what is considered normal or if you’re experiencing anything causing concern. 

Nerve blocks are specifically for patients with nerve damage or neurological conditions such as Trigeminal Neuralgia or chronic back pain. Patients who do not have nerve damage may not see the results from nerve blocks. However, patients experiencing chronic pain from nerve damage can benefit greatly from nerve blocks. Be sure to talk with your doctor if you think that nerve blocks may be the best option to treat your chronic pain.