Many people battle constant pain; for many, pain relief medications are no longer enough. Depending on the cause of the pain and your medical history, your doctor may suggest a nerve block to provide long-term relief and improve your quality of life.
Doctors use nerve block injections as a palliative and therapeutic management of chronic pain, but they can also be helpful for diagnosis and prognosis. It can be beneficial as a treatment to avoid surgery.
What is a Nerve Block?
Every part of your body has a system of nerves that send pain signals. To stop these pain signals, your doctor may decide to block the signaling nerve.
A nerve block is a procedure that disrupts nerve activity where a physician blocks pain signals by injecting medications into the set of nerves, causing discomfort.
The procedure can help people with chronic pain conditions improve their quality of life, allowing them to exercise, work and perform their day-to-day tasks
A nerve block effectively prevents, reduces, and manages pain, producing short or long-term pain relief.
Nerve blocks can help manage;
- Chronic pain conditions like sciatica, arthritis, and herniated disc pain
- Severe or acute pain
- The pain due to surgery
Types of Nerve Block Treatment and Their Differences
Nerve block treatment can be temporary or permanent;
Temporary nerve block
The procedure involves your doctor injecting medicines like steroids, anesthetics, or opioids into the affected nerve to block pain and inflammation.
A temporary nerve block can help manage pain during a surgical procedure, and it is also helpful during childbirth to block labor and delivery pain. The most common example of nerve block is epidural given during childbirth.
Permanent nerve block
Permanent procedures can either be surgical or non-surgical. The doctor will inject alcohol, phenol, or thermal agents directly into the nerve to damage the nerve pathways if they opt for a non-surgical permanent nerve block.
A surgical nerve block involves a neurosurgeon removing or selectively damaging certain parts of a nerve.
Surgical nerve block procedures include;
- Neurectomy which is the surgically damaging of a nerve
- Rhizotomy; involves surgically destroying nerve fibers responsible for sending pain signals to the brain.
- Sympathetic blockade
The differences between the two treatment procedures are;
- A permanent nerve block involves damaging or removing the nerve sending pain signals to a specific area, while a temporary nerve block blocks the nerve for a particular period.
- A permanent nerve block is irreversible, while a temporary nerve block is reversible.
What to Expect During a Non-surgical Nerve Block Procedure
The procedure requires needles, fluorescent light, and ultrasound to guide the needle properly. Your doctor may also use low-level electrical stimulation to locate your pain.
The doctor will first numb the skin before the procedure and inject the medicine into the nerve or a group of nerves. The injection numbs the area and reduces pain and inflammation.
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Muscle pain is common and can originate in any muscle of the body. The medical term for muscle pain is myalgia. Myalgia can be described as muscle pains, aches, and pain associated with ligaments, tendons, and the soft tissues that connect bones, organs, and muscles.
Causes of Myalgia
Myalgia can typically be localized to one area of the body, or groups of muscles. The most common causes of muscle pain are stress, overuse, injuries, and tension. Muscle pain – specifically systemic muscle pain – can be caused by an illness, infection, or a side effect of certain medications.
Common causes of myalgia includes:
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Lyme disease
- Myofascial pain syndrome
- Rheumatoid arthritis
Many other diseases and conditions cause pain to muscles such as hyperthyroidism, influenza, and dystonia.
Signs & Symptoms
Depending on the cause of your pain, muscle pain can be mild or severe, and in some cases, debilitating. Pain is the hallmark symptom of many chronic conditions. Symptoms can vary.
Muscle pain may be localized or widespread. Pain can be dull or sharp, mild or severe. With myalgia, the pain can be different, and may last a few minutes or constant. Unfortunately, the varying factors of your pain depend on many things.
Myalgia can cause fevers or chills if it is caused by an infection. It can also cause symptoms such as joint pain, or very weak (fatigue). Because of the pain, depression and feeling overly tired are common symptoms. This is true for most chronic pain conditions. Other symptoms can include tenderness, swelling, or redness.
It can be hard to do most of your daily activities if you suffer from myalgia and suffer from these symptoms.
Muscle pain from overuse or injury can be reduced by resting the body and taking over-the-counter pain relievers or NSAIDs. Rotating between ice and heat within the 24-72 hours can reduce pain and inflammation and be soothing to the muscles, releasing any tensions or knots.
Myalgia caused by overuse or a condition like fibromyalgia can be treated by massage or gentle stretching exercises. A doctor should address pain that persists longer than three days.
If pain is a result of an activity or acts like “pulled” or strained muscle, the best course of method for at-home treatments is the R.I.C.E. therapy:
- Rest. Take a break from regular, daily activities
- Ice. Use ice on the affected area for 20 minute intervals throughout the day
- Compression. A compression bandage can be used to reduce swelling
- Elevate. Elevating your affected area can be used to help reduce swelling
If you experience pain that continues with rest, or if any signs of infections arise around a sore muscle, talk to a doctor about how to manage your pain. Seek immediate attention if you have trouble breathing, suffer from extreme weakness, or have a high fever.
Neuropathic pain is a severe burning or shooting pain. This is a condition that is more often chronic. Neuropathic pain is typically caused by severe, progressive nerve disease. This causes damage to various levels of the nervous system; the brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nerves. Also, it can be as a result of infection or damage. It mainly affects the lower back, limbs, and neck. Neuropathic pain can be constant, with the recurrent feeling of burning and shooting accompanied by loss of sensation or numbness.
Unfortunately, neuropathic pain is widespread in the US. Researches show that based on best estimates, the prevalence of neuropathic pain among Americans may be between 6.9-10 percent. With chronic pain affecting over 20% of people in the US, neuropathic pain is the leading cause of pain. Populations most likely to experience this kind of pain include manual workers, women, people unable to work, people who are 50 years and above, and rural residents.
Causes Of Neuropathic Pain
The main causes of this form of pain can be categorized into four; disease, infection, injury, and loss of limb.
A lot of diseases can cause neuropathic pain, but at least 30% of these pain cases result from diabetes. Diabetic peripheral neuropathy affects at least 50% of people who have diabetes.
Other diseases that cause neuropathic pain include:
- Thyroid problems
- Multiple sclerosis
- Facial nerve issues like trigeminal neuralgia
- Connective tissue disorders
- Liver disease
- Kidney disease
- Multiple myeloma
Even when muscle, tissue, or joint injury has healed or leg, back, or hip problems improve, sometimes damage to the nervous system might not go away. Trauma caused by spinal injuries like spinal cord compression and herniated disc can damage your nerves near the spine. Also, iatrogenic injuries when doctors cut nerves during a surgical operation can cause chronic neuropathic pain.
Lyme disease, shingles, HIV infection and AIDS, Syphilis, hepatitis B and C, Epstein-Barr virus, leprosy, and diphtheria can also cause neuropathic pain.
When your hand or arm is amputated, you can suffer neuropathic pain. This is because the nerves near the amputated part may send incorrect signals to the brain, making it feel like the removed limb is in pain.
Neuropathic Pain Treatments
Neuropathic pain treatment aims to know the underlying condition or disease causing the pain and treat it if possible.
The main aim of your pain specialist is to offer pain relief, assist you in maintaining your usual capabilities regardless of the pain, and enhance your life quality. Some of the common treatments include:
NSAIDs like Motrin and Aleve can sometimes be used to treat this kind of pain. Unfortunately, many people don’t find these medicines effective for neuropathic pain, since they do not target the primary source of the pain.
These kinds of drugs have shown positive results in treating neuropathic pain symptoms. Two common types of these drugs are prescribed to patients with the following conditions.
- Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors
- Tricyclic antidepressants
These drugs may treat the pain and the symptoms of anxiety or depression caused by chronic pain.
This is an invasive procedure whereby a surgeon implants a device in your body. Doctors can implant the device in the spine or the brain. After the device is in place, it will send electrical impulses into the spinal cord, brain, or nerves. These impulses may control symptoms and end the irregular nerve signals.
Get Help With Neuropathic Pain Today
Now that you know what neuropathic pain is, its causes and how to treat it, it’s time to see a doctor. Ensure you visit a doctor for the correct diagnosis and a treatment plan. When you get proper treatment, you may find relief and live a high-quality life.
Contact the team at Progressive Pain for help or fill out the form below and start your treatment today.
Discs are the cushions between the vertebrae in the spine. They are made up of cartilage – soft cartilage on the inside with an outer layer of tough cartilage. The 23 vertebral discs in the back have three main roles: to act as a shock absorber, to allow for spinal mobility, and to act as ligaments that hold the vertebrae together.
Herniated and Bulging Discs: What’s the Difference?
The discs are primarily made up of water at birth, and over time, they dehydrate and degenerate. This causes the joints to become stiff. These changes in the spine can cause pain and abnormalities in the discs and their structure.
Chances are, the terms bulging disc and herniated disc are familiar. They are both common to patients who suffer from back pain, but are very different conditions.
What is a Bulging Disc?
Bulging discs occur when the disc becomes dehydrated and its circumference increases. Think of a hamburger that is too big for the bun. Only the outside, tough cartilage layer is affected.
Age-related conditions like lumbar stenosis and other degeneration issues can cause bulging discs. Because it is a degenerative condition, the symptoms can take a long time to fully appear, but can affect the buttocks, upper legs, and most commonly, the back.
There are many treatment options, depending on the severity of your pain and the number of bulging discs.
- Short-term treatments: Anti-inflammatory medications & steroid injections
- Long-term treatments: Exercise program or lumbar decompression
What is a Herniated Disc?
Herniated discs, also called ruptured or slipped discs, are typically much more painful than bulging discs. This is because herniated discs occur when there is a crack in the outer cartilage, exposing the inner, soft cartilage. The soft cartilage can seep through the cracked outer layer and has the ability to reach nerve roots, causing immense pain.
Herniated discs are most frequently caused by acute injuries or strain on the back, such as twisting, lifting heavy objects, or in some cases, obesity. The added weight and strain on the spine can cause ruptures. A sedentary lifestyle can cause the back to weaken and also cause discs to become herniated.
Herniated discs can be prevented by maintaining proper body weight, performing core-strengthening exercises, and keeping good posture while sitting and standing.
Treatments options come in a variety of options:
- Over-the-Counter medications: OTC pain relievers can alleviate the pain for mild to moderate pain.
- Cortisone injections: Corticosteroids may be used to suppress inflammation around the nerve area.
- Therapy: Physical therapy can help improve posture and teach exercises designed to minimize pain.
- Surgery: If other treatment options fail, and you experience numbness, loss of bladder control, or difficulty standing, surgery may be your best option.
Both herniated discs and bulging discs can be treated without surgery, in most cases. With evolving technology, it has become easier and easier for physicians to treat back pain with non-medicated techniques.
To learn more about herniated and bulging discs and how they can be treated, contact the team at Progressive Pain today.