A nerve block can be a valuable tool for both diagnosing and treating pain conditions, including disorders like complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) and many causes of back and neck pain. Jinghui Xie, MD, at Caring Pain Management in North and Central New Jersey and New York City, specializes in relieving pain and improving function for patients using a variety of injectable nerve blocks.
A nerve block is a diagnostic tool that’s also effective in treating certain pain disorders. Nerve blocks consist of an injection of numbing medication or anesthetic.
As well as large nerves throughout your body and the complex network of nerves in your spinal cord, you have clusters of nerves that cause pain in specific parts or organs. These clusters are known as ganglions or plexuses. One of the most familiar nerve clusters is the solar plexus in your abdomen.
Dr. Xie uses nerve blocks to prevent pain signals from reaching your brain.
There are several different kinds of nerve blocks that Dr. Xie can use to diagnose and treat pain conditions. They include:
Therapeutic nerve blocks
Therapeutic nerve blocks contain a local anesthetic, which provides short-term pain relief. They’re often used to manage acute pain.
Diagnostic nerve blocks
Dr. Xie uses diagnostic nerve blocks to locate the source of your pain when it’s not clear from other diagnostic tests. If a nerve block injection at a certain point relieves your pain, Dr. Xie can determine what nerves are sending the pain signals and then pinpoint the origin of your pain.
Prognostic nerve blocks
Prognostic nerve blocks help to indicate the outcome you might expect from a more invasive treatment like surgery. This can save you from undergoing a procedure that might not be effective in relieving your pain.
Preemptive nerve blocks
If you need a procedure that’s known to cause painful complications, a preemptive nerve block could help prevent those complications. For instance, surgeries such as amputation can cause phantom limb pain, which a preemptive nerve block could suppress.
Some of the nerve blocks Dr. Xie performs include:
Sympathetic nerve block
Your sympathetic nervous system controls involuntary functions related to your fight-or-flight response, like increasing your heart rate and releasing the hormone adrenaline. A sympathetic nerve block can be useful for treating conditions like complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS).
Facet joint and medial branch blocks
Your facet joints connect the vertebrae in your spine. Facet joint and medial branch blocks can help when you have problems like facet joint syndrome, post-whiplash injury, chronic back pain, and spondylosis.
Stellate ganglion block
The stellate ganglion is in your neck and is part of your sympathetic nervous system. A stellate ganglion block can help diagnose and treat conditions such as CRPS and phantom limb pain.
Nerve blocks are useful in many areas of the body. For example, you might have a trigeminal nerve block for facial pain, or a brachial plexus block for pain in your shoulder, arm, or hand.