- Related Resources - Pain Management and Nerve Blocks
- Surprising Reasons You're in Pain Slideshow
- Take the Pain Quiz
- Joint-Friendly Exercises to Reduce RA Pain Slideshow
Nerve blocks are used for pain treatment and management. There are several different types of nerve blocks that serve different purposes.
Often a group of nerves, called a plexus or ganglion, that causes pain to a specific organ or body region can be blocked with the injection of medication into a specific area of the body. The injection of this nerve-numbing substance is called a nerve block.
How Are Nerve Blocks Used?
Different kinds of nerve blocks are used for different purposes.
- Therapeutic nerve blocks are used to treat painful conditions. Such nerve blocks contain local anesthetic that can be used to control acute pain.
- Diagnostic nerve blocks are used to determine sources of pain. These blocks typically contain an anesthetic with a known duration of relief.
- Prognostic nerve blocks predict the outcomes of given treatments. For example, a nerve block may be performed to determine if more permanent treatments (such as surgery) would be successful in treating pain.
- Preemptive nerve blocks are meant to prevent subsequent pain from a procedure that can cause problems including phantom limb pain.
- Nerve blocks can be used, in some cases, to avoid surgery.
Types of Nerve Blocks
Various areas of pain require different nerve block types. Below are a few of the available nerve blocks, followed in parentheses by some of the parts of the body for which they are used.
- Trigeminal nerve blocks (face)
- Ophthalmic nerve block (eyelids and scalp)
- Supraorbital nerve block (forehead)
- Maxillary nerve block (upper jaw)
- Sphenopalatine nerve block (nose and palate)
- Cervical epidural, thoracic epidural, and lumbar epidural block (neck and back)
- Cervical plexus block and cervical paravertebral block (shoulder and upper neck)
- Brachial plexus block, elbow block, and wrist block (shoulder/arm/hand, elbow, and wrist)
- Subarachnoid block and celiac plexus block (abdomen and pelvis)
Other Nerve Blocks
Other types of nerve blocks include:
- Sympathetic nerve block: A sympathetic nerve block is one that is performed to determine if there is damage to the sympathetic nerve chain. This is a network of nerves extending the length of the spine. These nerves control some of the involuntary functions of the body, such as opening and narrowing blood vessels.
- Stellate ganglion block: This is a type of sympathetic nerve block performed to determine if there is damage to the sympathetic nerve chain supplying the head, neck, chest, or arms and if it is the source of pain in those areas. Although used mainly as a diagnostic block, the stellate ganglion block may provide pain relief in excess of the duration of the anesthetic.
- Facet joint block: Also known as a zygapophysial joint block, the facet joint block is performed to determine whether a facet joint is a source of pain. Facet joints are located on the back of the spine, where one vertebra slightly overlaps another. These joints guide and restrict the spines movement.
Side Effects and Risks of Nerve Blocks
Nerve blocks do have risks and side effects. They include:
- Elevated blood sugars
- Weight gain
- Extra energy
- Soreness at the site of injection
- Death (in rare cases)
Although many kinds of nerve blocks exist, this treatment cannot always be used. If your pain isn't related to pain in a single or small group of nerves, nerve blocks may not be right for you. Your doctor can advise you as to whether this treatment is appropriate for you.
WebMD Medical Reference
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
International Spine Intervention Society
Reviewed by Varnada Karriem-Norwood, MD on February 12, 2012
Top Nerve Blocks Related Articles
Can Nerve Damage Heal on Its Own?Damage to nerves can be severe. Because of their structure and function, nerves do not heal as quickly as some body parts do, but sometimes nerve damage can heal on its own.
Chronic Pain Syndrome: Treatment and Management for CPSDo you suffer from excruciating pain? What is chronic pain syndrome (CPS)? See causes, symptoms and treatment options, including medications. Learn about pain management tips such as strength training, biofeedback, and yoga, as well as forms of chronic pain such as lower back pain, arthritis, and migraines.
Dry SocketA dry socket is a potential complication that can occur when a blood clot in the gums becomes dislodged after a tooth extraction. Dry socket signs and symptoms include pain, mouth odor, and unpleasant taste in the mouth. A dentist may treat a dry socket with analgesic dressing. Over-the-counter pain medications can also relieve symptoms. A dry socket usually heals within 7 days. Avoiding smoking, drinking with a straw, and vigorous rinsing and spitting may help prevent the formation of dry socket.
How Long Does a Posterior Tibial Nerve Block Last?A posterior tibial nerve block is a procedure for numbing a portion of the foot. An anesthetic injection is administered near the ankle on the inside of the leg, close to the posterior tibial nerve, blocking the transmission of pain signals to the brain.
How Long Does a Supraclavicular Nerve Block Last?A supraclavicular nerve block is a procedure to block the sensation in the arm below the shoulder. An anesthetic injection is administered in the area above the collarbone (clavicle) close to the network of nerves (brachial plexus) that provides sensation to the upper extremities. A supraclavicular nerve block is the quickest and most effective block for the entire arm because the nerves are tightly packed in the targeted anatomical region (brachial plexus).
How Long Does an Ulnar Nerve Block Last?An ulnar nerve block is a procedure to numb the side of the hand with the little finger. An anesthetic solution is injected adjacent to the ulnar nerve in the wrist or the elbow. The anesthetic blocks the transmission of pain signals from an injured portion of the hand to the brain.
Itch (Itching or Pruritus)Itching can be a common problem. Itches can be localized or generalized. There are many causes of itching to include: infection (jock itch, vaginal itch), disease (hyperthyroidism, liver or kidney), reactions to drugs, and skin infestations (pubic or body lice). Treatment for itching varies depending on the cause of the itch.
What Do Nerve Conduction Studies and Electromyography Diagnose?Nerve conduction studies and needle electromyography (EMG) are tests performed to assess the health of nerves and muscles. A neurophysiologist stimulates specific nerves and muscles and studies the resulting activity to evaluate if the nerves and muscles are functioning normally.
Pinched NerveA pinched nerve causes pain, numbness, or tingling in the affected area due to pressure on a nerve. Carpal tunnel and sciatica are two examples of conditions caused by a pinched nerve. A pinched nerve is diagnosed by taking a patient history and performing a physical examination. Electromyography may be performed. Treatment for a pinched nerve depends on the underlying cause.
RashThe word "rash" means an outbreak of red bumps on the body. The way people use this term, "a rash" can refer to many different skin conditions. The most common of these are scaly patches of skin and red, itchy bumps or patches all over the place.
What Is a Sural Nerve Block?A sural nerve block is a procedure for anesthetizing a part of the calf, lower leg, heel and foot. An anesthetic solution is injected adjacent to the Achilles tendon on the outer side of the foot. The anesthetic blocks the transmission of pain signals from injury or surgery in these parts of the lower leg.