What is a nerve block?
A nerve block is the injection of local anesthetic close to a targeted nerve or group of nerves to lessen pain. This is particularly useful in determining the source of the pain. Injection of anti-inflammatory medication in conjunction with local anesthetic may promote healing of damaged nerves.
What are the different types of nerve blocks?
There are different types of nerve blocks based on pain location. Nerve blocks are generally used for pain in the back, legs, arms, buttocks, neck, and face.
What happens during a nerve block procedure?
A nerve block is normally done on an outpatient basis. You will be positioned on your stomach or side on a fluoroscopy (X-ray) or ultrasound table so your doctor can easily access the injection point. You may be offered a mild sedative through an IV line in your arm to ease your anxiety. Ask your doctor ahead of time if sedation will be used so you can arrange a ride home after the procedure. If you are receiving sedation, your doctor will ask you to fast for a period of six to eight hours prior to the procedure.
You will be given a local anesthetic to numb the area where you will receive your injection. You still may feel a pinch or some discomfort as the needle enters your skin. The doctor will be guided to inject the medication into the right spot using ultrasound or fluoroscopy, which converts X-rays into video images. After the procedure you’ll rest until the medication takes effect.
Risks / Benefits
What are the side effects and risks of nerve blocks?
Be sure to talk to your doctor about any side effects and risks of nerve blocks. These may include:
- Risk of infection at injection site.
- Bleeding or soreness at injection site.
- Specific side effects for different nerve blocks; for example, trouble swallowing, red drooping eyes, hoarseness (after a stellate ganglion block, which targets nerves in the neck).
Recovery and Outlook
How long will pain relief last after a nerve block?
Pain relief can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks. Each patient responds differently. Some patients may obtain relief from a single injection while others may need multiple nerve block treatments.
What is the outlook for people who receive nerve blocks?
A nerve block procedure is generally safe and most people are able to return to their normal routine a day after the procedure. Depending on your situation, you may get several treatments along with physical therapy or pain medications.