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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