What is a Nerve Block?

Pain Specialists often use Nerve blocks for pain treatment and management. Sometimes, a bundle of nerves (called a plexus or ganglion) can cause pain to a specific organ or body region. Specialists can block these nerve signals with an injection of medication into a specific area. Doctors call this injection of this nerve-numbing substance a Nerve Block.

How Are Nerve Blocks Used?

Pain Specialists use different kinds of nerve blocks for different purposes.

  • Therapeutic nerve blocks: used to treat painful conditions. They contain a local anesthetic used to control acute pain.
  • Diagnostic nerve blocks: used to determine sources of pain. These blocks contain a short-term anesthetic with the purpose of discovering the source of the pain signal by process of elimination.
  • Preemptive nerve blocks: used to prevent future pain that may occur from an upcoming procedure.
  • Sympathetic nerve block: performed to determine the presence of damage on the sympathetic nerve chain, a network of nerves extending the length of the spine. These nerves control some of the body’s involuntary functions, like controlling the diameter of blood vessels.
  • Stellate ganglion block: This type of sympathetic nerve block reveals the existence of damage to the sympathetic nerve chain supplying the head, neck, chest, or arms. Although mainly used as a diagnostic block, the stellate ganglion block may provide relief from pain for an extended period of time.
  • Facet joint block: Also known as a zygapophysial joint block, this block determines whether the pain stems from a facet joint. Facet joints sit toward the back of the spine, where each vertebra overlaps with the next. These joints guide and restrict the spine’s movement.