Occasionally, a specific nerve is responsible for pain in a part of the body. Other times, however, it is a group of nerves, referred to as a plexus or ganglion, that causes pain to a region or organ system. Treatments called nerve blocks can help reduce pain and/or other symptoms caused by specific nerves or groups of nerves.
Different types of nerve blocks are used for a variety of purposes. In a different section, we talk about selective nerve blocks, what they are and what conditions they can help. Here, we will talk about general nerve blocks.
What are Nerve Block Used For?
Nerve blocks are a useful tool for pain specialists as well as other specialists, such as neurologists. They can be diagnostic, helpful in determining the source/cause of the pain and/or other symptoms, as well as therapeutic, treating the pain and/or other symptoms. There are other types, as well. A description of the different types of nerve blocks are as follows:
- Diagnostic – used to determine the source of the pain (most often, the medication injected will be a numbing type of medication that provides relief for a few hours, enough to identify the source of pain, if located)
- Therapeutic – used to treat pain or other symptoms that can develop from injured or inflamed nerves (these blocks will typically include longer acting anesthetics or even steroids to prolong symptom relief)
- Prognostic – used to predict the outcome of other treatments such as surgery.
- Preemptive – used to prevent pain from developing after another procedure (Example: a phantom nerve pain is a debilitating type pain that can develop after a limb is amputated, but if a nerve block is preemptively performed during or immediately after an amputation, the phantom limb pain can be avoided)
Other types of nerve block involve treating different nerve groups based on their function. For example:
- Sympathetic nerve blocks – used to determine if nerves in the sympathetic nerve chain have been damaged from injury or illness. The sympathetic nerve chain extends the length of the spine and controls the involuntary functions of the body such as opening and narrowing blood vessels, sweat glands and other functions necessary for the normal maintenance of the body.
- Peripheral nerve blocks – serve to relay messages of sensation from the skin and muscles of the arms, legs, abdomen, groin, trunk, chest, face and scalp
*Individual Result May Vary*