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What Is Nerve Block Treatment?

By Expert Author: Allan Benton

Chronic back pain and on other structures connected to the spine develops from factors such as gradual wear and tear of structures such as cartilage, bulging disks, injury or inflammatory conditions such as osteoarthritis. Pain may radiate from the source at the spine or joints to the adjacent areas on the lower back, neck and head, arms and legs.

Before the treatment for chronic pain begins, a diagnosis is made to identify the cause and source of the pain. Pain doctors, through physical examination along with the use of diagnostic equipment such as X-rays, MRIs and CAT scans and a patient’s medical history usually get useful insight into the condition of the spine and the surrounding structures.

Once a diagnosis is made, a chronic pain doctor first prescribes conservative therapy as the initial option in managing the pain. Conservative therapy may include physical therapy, ultrasounds, medications and exercise and other measures such as lifestyle modifications. However if the pain persists, pain doctors normally prescribe a nerve block as an alternative to provide relief from the pain. A nerve block targets the pain at the source and involves an injection that the pain management specialist administers at a facet joint or on a block of nerves around the problem area.

Traditionally, a nerve block, which is an interventional therapy, is performed by a pain management specialist, usually an anesthesiologist. Several procedures may be required to reduce the pain and hospital admission is normally not necessary. Sessions last a few hours and patients can go home afterwards. Nerve blocks can reduce the pain significantly within the first course of the treatment. In a case where the pain is eliminated completely, the pain specialist may not perform further treatment. But for patients who require subsequent treatment, the pain doctors perform the procedures within the duration of about two months apart.

Sometimes the pain may return after the pain management specialist administers a full course of treatment. Providing relief from the pain in such patients may require the pain doctors to destroy completely, the nerves on the location causing the pain. This is done through a procedure known as radiofrequency ablation.

Nerve blocks are quite safe and apart from the soreness on the point where the chronic pain doctor makes the injection, there is minimal discomfort or side effects. In cases of chronic back pain, the back pain specialist has a consultation session with the patient to determine the most appropriate treatment procedures based on the patient’s condition. Generally, there are several types of nerve blocks and a pain specialist performs the procedure that treats the specific problem. These include facet blocks, stellate ganglion blocks, lumbar sympathetic blocks, trigger point injections and edial branch blocks among others.

Interventional management of chronic pain is in most cases, effective in managing pain because it targets the problem area from the exact source of the pain. The back pain specialist can use any of these procedures to treat an array of conditions including sciatica, spinal stenosis, joint and neck pain, post-herpetic neuralgia, chronic back pain, neuropathy, reflex sympathetic dystrophy and many others.

There is therefore no reason why patients should live with nagging pain and discomfort because nerve blocks can provide relief and can help to improve the quality of life of patients significantly.

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