Patients can experience months of relief from a Lumbar Sympathetic Block.
Lumbar sympathetic nerve blocks are a minimally invasive method of treating chronic lower back pain and sciatica. The procedure involves injecting a combination of a local anesthetic and a steroid into or near the sympathetic nerves located on either side of the spine.
- Safe with minimal complications
- Often used in combination with physical therapy
- Minimal downtime
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Lumbar sympathetic blocks are commonly used to treat nerve pain caused by reflex sympathetic dystrophy, peripheral neuropathy, complex regional pain syndrome, and shingles infections affecting the lower back and legs. Since the sympathetic nervous system helps control blood flow, sweating, and other involuntary body functions, sympathetic nerve blocks can also be used to treat excessive sweating and pain caused by Raynaud’s syndrome, blood vessel spasms, and vascular insufficiency.
What to Expect Following a Lumbar Sympathetic Nerve Block
You will be drowsy from the sedation, so you should not drive for 24 hours following the procedure. It is normal to experience some bruising and mild tenderness at the injection site. You may notice that your back and legs feel warm, numb, or weak, but these symptoms will go away as the local anesthetic wears off. You should take it easy for the first 24 hours, but you can return to your normal routine the day after the procedure.
How it’s Performed
Before the procedure, you will be given intravenous sedation that will help you feel relaxed and drowsy. You will then be placed face down on an X-ray table, and the doctor will use a local anesthetic to numb the appropriate area of your lower back. Using an X-ray for guidance, the doctor will then insert a needle into the appropriate position along the spine. After confirming that the needle is in the correct location by injecting a dye, the doctor then injects the medication. The procedure normally takes about 30 minutes, and you are discharged home the same day.
Sympathetic nerve blocks are quite safe and pose minimal risk of complications. Although some patients experience immediate relief, this is usually the result of the local anesthetic and wears off within a few hours. It normally takes several days for the long-term benefits of the steroid to become apparent. While sympathetic nerve blocks are not effective for everyone, some patients experience several weeks or even months of pain relief. The best results are typically achieved with a series of injections used in combination with physical therapy and other treatments.