Getting Pain Under Control
Pain is a part of life. The pain can be a simple cause-and-effect transaction or from stubbing a toe. Pain can also be chronic, like arthritis. There are many different techniques, medications, and strategies for pain management. Nerve blocks can be very effective for some long-term conditions or specific circumstances.
You’ve got some nerve
When there is an injury or inflammation, nerve endings send signals to the brain that translates into pain. In some cases, bones, ligaments, or swollen tissue can press on these nerves. Nerve pain can be particularly distressing. Common conditions with nerve pain include peripheral neuropathy, sciatica, spondylosis and carpal tunnel syndrome. Most cases respond well to medication, exercise, and rest, but some need further treatment.
Blocking out the pain
A nerve block comes in handy when a doctor needs to treat nerve pain. The procedure prevents the nerves from sending signals to the brain by injecting an anesthetic or using other long-term means. Nerve blocks are also helpful for doctors who want to confirm if a particular area is causing pain. All nerve blocks happen with the same process. First, the doctor numbs the affected area and then uses fluoroscopy or CT scan to view the affected area. From there, the blocking agent is injected near the branch of nerves. Unless the nerve block is a precursor to another procedure, the patient can leave the same day.
Short-term nerve blocks
The effectiveness of the procedure will depend on the condition treated. Short-term nerve blocks are the most common form of treatment. The doctor will inject an anesthetic near the nerve branch to numb the area. This anesthetic lasts between 8-36 hours. Typical uses include epidurals during childbirth, arthritis, and just before surgery.
Medium-term nerve blocks
Sometimes, a patient will choose to avoid surgery but will need extended pain relief. This scenario is common with spinal conditions like sciatica, spondylosis, and issues with facet joints. A medial nerve branch block places a more potent corticosteroid near the branch nerves with the anesthetic. These shots aim to reduce inflammation and pain and typically last up to 3 months. Like short-term epidurals, doctors also use nerve blocks to confirm where the pain is originating.
Long-term nerve blocks
In severe cases, surgeons will opt for a long-term solution. These techniques seek to damage or destroy the nerve endings. Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is a standard procedure where radio waves burn the nerve endings through an injection. In rare cases of chronic pain, a surgeon can perform a neurectomy. This procedure severs the nerve endings using a minimally invasive procedure. Both procedures can reduce pain for between 1-2 years. In some cases, the pain relief can be much longer. By that time, the nerve endings can regrow and the pain can return.
Find what’s right for you
Based on the condition causing pain, a doctor will recommend the appropriate nerve blocks. Some will last just a few days, and others can last up to 3 months. Procedures like RFA reduce pain by destroying the nerve endings. These procedures can last for years. Managing pain can lead to a more fulfilling lifestyle. Speak with a doctor about the possibility of trying nerve blocks today.