Selective Nerve Root Blocks are minimally invasive procedures that involve the injection of a local anesthetic along a selected nerve root. Nerve blocks can help to relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and diagnose the source of pain. These procedures utilize needles and diagnostic imaging guidance to locate a specific nerve, and then inject a numbing medication and steroid around a nerve or a group of nerves.
Nerve blocks are particularly effective for relieving pain caused by a pinched or entrapped nerve and can be effective for patients with herniated discs, bulging discs, degenerative changes, bone spurs, or scoliosis. In addition to being an effective way to treat chronic back or neck pain, they’re also effectively used as a diagnostic procedure to help better identify the source of back or neck pain in order to help provide the most effective treatment possible.
Types of Nerve Blocks
There are a variety of types of nerve blocks available depending on the location of your pain and the purpose of the nerve block. Facet blocks are among the most common and are used as a diagnostic procedure to determine whether the facet joint is the source of neck, back, or lumbar pain. While these are intended as diagnostic procedures, for some patients they also provide lasting pain relief. More importantly, however, they help to locate the source of pain and can determine whether a patient is a good candidate for other innovative treatments, including radiofrequency nerve ablation.
Similarly, sympathetic nerve blocks are used to test if your sympathetic nerves, which are a collection of nerves that play an important role in a variety of bodily functions, are the source of your pain. Like a facet block, they are intended primarily as a diagnostic test but can also provide pain relief. Sympathetic nerve blocks are generally indicated for patients suffering from chronic pain, and they can be particularly effective for patients with chronic stomach pain, excessive sweating, shingles, or Complex Regional Pain Syndrome.
Other types of available nerve blocks include a lateral femoral cutaneous nerve block, which helps to treat pain in lateral thighs caused by pressure, injury or entrapment, and peripheral nerve blocks, which can serve as an alternative to anesthesia to provide a central nerve block.
What to Expect from a Nerve Block
The procedure itself is minimally invasive and quick. The injection only lasts a few minutes and most patients are monitored for about 30 minutes after the procedure before going home. Use of a local anesthetic makes this procedure relatively pain free and will likely relieve your pain for a few hours following the procedure. After that, you might feel some soreness at the injection site.
Most patients begin to feel relief three to seven days after the procedure. Relief can last for a few weeks or a few months. If you don’t experience pain relief or if the pain returns, it’s safe to receive another injection. However, in most cases it’s best to not receive more than three injections in a year.
The Effectiveness of Nerve Blocks
Recent studies looking at the effectiveness of nerve blocks found that after one injection in the cervical spine, 57% of patients experienced a significant improvement in pain six months later. Similarly, 46% of patients receiving one injection in the lumbar spine had a significant improvement in pain one year later. Research further indicates that patients that participate in physical therapy and complete strengthening exercises have a higher success rate.
For patients that are looking for sciatica nerve pain relief or that are suffering from chronic back pain, a selective nerve root block can be an effective way to provide pain relief and to better diagnose the source of the pain. If you’re experiencing chronic back or neck pain or have any questions about selective nerve root blocks, contact Glaser Pain Relief Center to schedule an appointment at our Encino, California clinic today.