The ultimate goal of a nerve block injection is to reduce or eliminate pain signals, so that the patient feels less physical pain.
It’s important to note, however, that nerve block injections do not treat the underlying causes of chronic pain. Still, they can be useful for pain relief, and can also make physical therapy easier. Let’s take a look at how nerve block injections work, and how effective they are in addressing chronic pain.
How Do Nerve Block Injections Work?
Nerve block injections are used to target nerves in the spinal column. The human spine has 31 spinal nerve pairs, and the peripheral nerves of each pair branch out into many more nerves, which send pain signals to different parts of the body. That’s why a nerve block injection for neuropathic leg pain, for example, will still target the spinal area.
What You Can Expect
The medication used in nerve block injections varies depending on the source of pain and goals for treatment. Steroidal injections may help reduce inflammation that causes neuropathic pain, while opioid injections and local anesthetics are designed to block the pain itself.
During the procedure, the doctor injects the medication as close as possible to the nerve being targeted. While nervousness is natural for any spinal procedure, most doctors contend that the anxiety is worse than any discomfort that occurs during the actual procedure.
Your doctor may also use medical imaging to make it easier to target the injection in just the right spot. Since proximity to the nerve is an important part of nerve-block injections, imaging may help reduce risk and streamline the procedure.
The effects of nerve block injections are relatively short-term in nature because the injection doesn’t address the underlying pain source. However, the individual effects depend on the patient’s condition and the medication used, so your doctor can tell you more about your unique case.
The Effectiveness of Nerve Block Injections for Treating Chronic Pain
Nerve block injections are not a cure-all solution for chronic pain but may offer significant short-term relief to patients dealing with neuropathic pain. Since nerve block injections are minimally invasive compared to most surgical procedures, they are often considered to be a conservative treatment path. In other words, they may offer relief without causing major upheaval in a patient’s life.
Conservative does not mean, however, that injections are risk-free. As with any procedure related to the spine, it’s important to speak with your doctor about the risks and benefits of nerve block injections.
The pain-blocking properties of nerve block injections may also allow patients to pursue physical therapy with fewer limitations though only your doctor can make those treatment decisions.
Currently, most nerve block injections remain effective for anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. Once the pain-blocking effects wear off, another nerve block injection may be necessary for pain relief.
As with most types of chronic pain treatments, nerve block injections are not a one-size-fits-all solution. The effectiveness of these injections depends on a complex web of variables, but many patients report positive results. Speak with your doctor to learn more about nerve block injections and whether they fit into the treatment plan for your chronic pain.