Common Patient Questions about Nerve Blocks
Find out how nerve blocks can help people with chronic or acute pain.
For many people, pain has become a constant part of their lives. In fact, according to CDC, back in 2018, about 20.4% of the U.S. population is estimated to suffer from chronic pain, while approximately 8% of adults in the U.S. suffer from high-impact chronic pain.
This is a sad reality that many of us face. Fortunately, there are treatments available today that can help give relief to those who are in need of it.
Here at AZ Pain Medicine Clinic, for instance, our clinic specialists offer nerve block injections to help you manage your pain.
Nerve blocks have been proven to be more effective than intravenous or intramuscular methods. Since there’s no need to recover from a nerve block, you may even be able to continue with your diet and undergo physical therapy at an earlier rate for a faster recovery.
What are nerve blocks?
Nerve blocks, also known as neural blockades, are medical procedures that can help avert or manage various types of pain. They often take the form of pain-blocking medical injections, thereby making specific bundles of nerves in the body numb to any kind of pain.
Aside from pain relief, these local anesthetics can also help patients totally lose their sense of touch, which may become necessary for surgical procedures or physical therapy.
Nerve blocks can also manage the pain experienced by patients with chronic health conditions or injuries in which the nerves have been damaged, inflamed, or irritated. Some cases where a patient may find nerve blocks beneficial include knee joint pain, lower back pain, and chronic pain.
A nerve block is injected near specific neurons and is typically done either before or after certain types of procedures, such as spinal surgeries. It aims to decrease pain in certain parts of your body or even deliberately cut or destroy certain nerves during surgery.
What are the benefits of nerve blocks?
Nerve blocks can have more benefits than general anesthesia. With neural blockades, the chances are higher that you can have greater control over your pain. Consequently, recovery is quicker, and you get to spend less time in the hospital.
Aside from helping you manage chronic, debilitating pain post-surgery, nerve blocks are also commonly used for patients who feel pain in body areas like their spine, limbs, neck, and even the buttocks.
Here at AZ Pain Medicine Clinic, our nerve block procedure can help ease acute pain and offers the possibility of long-term relief, as some injections reduce nerve irritation and allow for better healing. Take note, however, that some patients might require repeated treatment for inflammation and pain since the drug used for their procedure can wear off after a few hours.
Some health care providers also use a nerve block as a tool to find out what is causing your pain and where it is coming from. By determining your body’s reaction to a nerve block and how it is linked to the pain you’re feeling, our health care team can help you better figure out the best way to treat it.
What kinds of pain can nerve blocks help with?
You and your health care provider from AZ Pain Medicine Clinic may discuss the appropriateness and benefits of nerve blocks in managing any of the following pain types:
- Cancer-related pain
- Chronic regional pain syndrome (CRPS)
- Headaches, such as migraines and occipital neuralgia
- Lower back pain
- Neck pain
- Pain before, during, or after a surgery
- Pain from arthritis
- Pain from delivering a child
- Pain from spasms in the arteries
- Phantom pain following an imputation
- Severe facial pain
You don’t have to worry about the risks of administering these injections since our pain management staff at AZ Pain Medicine Clinic is qualified to administer these anesthetic procedures. Consequently, we can help people with chronic pain function much better in their everyday lives.
What are the different types of nerve blocks?
Because pain may originate from different regions in the body, the type of nerve block that one patient may need may be different for another.
Our medical professionals at AZ Pain Medicine Clinic may advise using different kinds of neural blockade injections depending on the cause of pain, your overall health, and the type of surgical procedure you’re having.
Listed below are some of the different types of neural blockades:
- Brachial plexus block, elbow block, and wrist block (nerve blocks for shoulder surgery, wrist surgery, or surgery in the arms, hands, and elbows)
- Cervical epidural, lumbar epidural block, and thoracic epidural (nerve blocks in the neck and back)
- Epidural analgesia or anesthesia (nerve block in the spinal cord)
- Maxillary nerve block (nerve block in the upper jaw)
- Ophthalmic nerve block (nerve block in the eyelids and scalp)
- Trigeminal nerve blocks (nerve block in the face)
- Sphenopalatine nerve block (nerve block in the nose and palate)
- Supraorbital nerve block (nerve block in the forehead)
Likely the most well-known neural blockades, however, are epidural nerve blocks. A lot of pregnant women request this epidural during childbirth in order to relieve themselves from the pain of labor and delivery. Here, your doctors inject an anesthetic drug into the region just outside your spinal column.
The effects of nerve blocks can either be long-lasting or temporary.
How does it work?
The procedure requires the administration of hair-thin needles along with a fluoroscope, an ultrasound, or a CT scan in order to guide the needle more accurately and monitor the progress of the nerve block medication. We may also use electrical stimulation at low levels so that we can better locate the nerve that is causing patients pain.
With the nerve block, the area on which the drug is administered becomes numb, thus easing patients’ pain. In some cases, the affected nerves are even intentionally damaged or cut to prevent the neurons’ impulses from reaching the brain and the spinal cord. This is usually done in surgical nerve blocks.
Except in certain cases, it is usually the patient’s choice whether they would like to stay awake or to be asleep during the surgery. A sterile drape is placed between you and the surgeon during the procedure, so the chances are high that you won’t even know what’s going on. If you do want to fall asleep, you may also be given a dose of heavy sedation to knock you out.
In general, it can take us less than 10 minutes to administer these local anesthetics. You can typically expect to feel the full effects of the procedure after about half an hour.
How long does it take for a nerve block to wear off?
In some cases, a single shot of a nerve block can last up to 24 hours. Some surgeries can cause significant pain after an operation, and side effects of nerve blocks can include swelling and bruising. In the event that your pain gets worse after the nerve block, we can provide you with additional medication to help alleviate the pain post-surgery.
For patients that experience severe pain after the nerve block wears off, medications may come in the form of prescription pain medications that you can take home. In some cases, you may require opioids to help with the pain post-op, especially if you had the nerve blocks for a bleeding disorder or contraindications. We have alternatives to this that can help you manage or avoid the pain altogether.
If you are worried about the opioid option, we suggest that you discuss it with your AZ Pain Medicine Clinic practitioner to see what other options are available. This way, you can limit the use of these opioids and prevent any risk of misuse as well as other serious health risks that may come with it.
Does getting a nerve block hurt?
Generally, there can be some minor discomfort when getting a neural blockade. However, some patients have reported that the pain is relatively minor as compared to having a small IV catheter placed. At AZ Pain Medicine Clinic, we will give sedating medicines to help you relax and numb the skin before placement.
Heaviness and numbness from the nerve block are to be expected after surgery, and you should talk to your caregivers before you stand up or try to move around since your muscle control could still be affected after the operation.
Some patients may feel pain after the nerve block wears off. If this happens, we have nerve block medication pills that can help ease your pain.
Is nerve block safe?
We highly recommend that you talk to an anesthesiologist or to your surgeon before making the decision to get the injection. This way, you can check if you are eligible for a nerve block procedure. You might have pre-existing conditions that make you ineligible, so it is best to be prepared. Health conditions like bleeding disorders and even something as minor as an infection can affect your eligibility.
If you are under any medication, you should definitely consult a medical professional to check if the nerve block will cause any adverse effects to your body.
What are the side effects and risks of nerve blocks?
Like all medical procedures, neural blockades carry some risks with them. Nerve block side effects after surgery may include bleeding, soreness, or infection at the site of the injection. Compared with many procedures, however, nerve blocks appear to be quite safe. In fact, the rate of nerve injury is generally low, varying with the type of nerve blockade and surgery. Nerve injury is rare if it happens at all. In most cases, nerve block complications are temporary and usually fade over time.
At AZ Pain Medicine Clinic, we provide nerve blocks for pain management as well as other operations, providing different recommendations to each client in order to better ease their suffering. Our non-invasive techniques have also been tailor-fit to each patient’s specific case for faster results.
Our health specialists also use medicines and equipment that not many may easily find in other medical centers. We provide excellent pain management care through years of experience.
For more information or to schedule a consultation, give us a call here at AZ Pain Medicine Clinic today at +1-602-368-8800. We are here for you Monday to Friday – 8 am to 6 pm.