Patients find relief with LA Pain Specialist in the form of Nerve Root Blocks.
Often used to either identify where pain is coming from or provide temporary relief from discomfort, a nerve root block is a type of injection placed into the covering surrounding the part of the nerve that leads to the rest of the nervous system.
- You will need to be actively experiencing symptoms in order to benefit from this treatment
- A nerve root block can be diagnostic or therapeutic
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How Nerve Blocks May Be Used
Nerve blocks may serve several different purposes. The way a nerve block is used will depend on what stage a patient is at with their treatment.
When used for diagnostic purposes, a nerve root block may contain a short-acting anesthetic. If the patient reports feeling relief from symptoms, then the targeted nerve is likely contributing to the pain being experienced.
Therapeutic nerve blocks are used for pain management purposes. Delivered with a local anesthetic and anti-inflammatory medication, therapeutic blocks may be used to ease acute pain. However, other types of pain might not improve with nerve blocks.
Prognostic nerve blocks are used to “predict” a possible outcome of a treatment being considered. For instance, this type of nerve block may be done in advance of surgery to determine if the procedure will provide sufficient relief.
With preemptive nerve blocks, injections are used to prevent pain that may result from another medical procedure. An example of this is phantom limb pain that may be experienced during amputation.
Types of Nerve Root Blocks
The type of nerve root block used will be depend on what nerve is being treated and where it’s located. Nerve blocks for neck and back pain typically include lumbar (lower back) epidural blocks, cervical (neck) epidural blocks, and thoracic (upper- and middle-back) epidural blocks.
Pain affecting shoulders, arms, hands, elbows, or wrists may be treated with a brachial plexus block. A cervical plexus or cervical paravertebral block may help diagnose pain affecting the shoulder and upper neck. Abdominal and pelvic pain is sometimes eased with a subarachnoid or celiac plexus block.
Before, During, and After
Prior to a nerve root block, certain medications such as blood thinners may need to be temporarily stopped. Underlying conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure should be as under control as possible.
During the procedure, the nerve root block is placed in the nerve root. Whether a local anesthetic is used alone or with anti-inflammatory medication will depend on the purpose of the block. The doctor will have X-ray guidance to ensure correct placement of the injection. Dye may also be used. Some patients do better with the procedure with IV-delivered medication that helps with relaxation.
Afterwards, there may be minor irritation around the injection site. Some patients are report an increase in pain until the medication takes effect.
While MRIs and CT scans can identify soft tissue damage, these tests don’t always clearly identify which nerve is the one sending pain signals and triggering symptoms. After the correct nerve is identified, nerve root blocks may provide enough relief to allow you to benefit more from physical therapy exercises that may improve muscle strength and mobility.