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3 Types of Nerve Blocks: Which Is Best for You?

3 Types of Nerve Blocks: Which Is Best for You?

Nerve blocks are appropriately named: These treatments prevent pain by literally blocking nerve signals before they reach the brain. There are different types of nerve blocks, and understanding the differences among them can help ensure you receive the most appropriate treatment for your pain.

At Superior Pain Relief, our team, led by Zaid Malik, MD, offers different types of nerve blocks to treat pain that doesn’t respond to more conservative therapies. In this post, we explain sympathetic nerve blocks, medial branch nerve blocks, and stellate ganglion blocks and how we use them to relieve your pain.

How nerve blocks work

You sense pain when nerves react to chemical signals. These signals travel along nerve pathways from the site of pain to the brain, which interprets the signals as pain.

Nerve blocks use injections of medication to interrupt this signaling process, blocking nerve signals and preventing your brain from sensing pain. In addition to addressing your pain, nerve blocks can also be used in some instances to diagnose the cause of pain.

For nerve block injections, we use special imaging techniques to ensure each injection is precisely placed. Afterward, you may have some soreness or mild swelling around the injection site. These effects are temporary and resolve as the area heals.

Types of nerve blocks

Nerve blocks use similar medications to block pain signals and provide immediate relief from painful sensations. Nerve blocks vary primarily in the nerves they treat and the symptoms they relieve.

Sympathetic nerve block

The sympathetic nerves play pivotal roles in your body’s fight-or-flight response. These nerves affect your respiration, your heart rate, your body temperature and perspiration, and your muscles and other tissues in your limbs. 

Sympathetic nerve blocks are ideal for nerve-related pain (also called neuropathy or neuropathic pain), complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), pain associated with cancer and cancer treatments, many types of limb pain, and pain associated with vascular insufficiency. Injections are made near the spinal cord, where the sympathetic nerve roots are located. 

Medial branch nerve block

Your spine contains a series of bones (vertebrae), each pair of which forms a joint called a facet joint. Medial branch nerve blocks target pain signals involving the nerves in and around the facet joints.

Chronic conditions, like arthritis and facet joint syndrome, are common causes of medial nerve pain, but other issues can cause pain, too. During a medial nerve branch block procedure, Dr. Malik uses a diagnostic imaging technique called fluoroscopy to inject the anesthetic near the nerve. 

These injections help pinpoint the specific joint causing pain to aid in mapping out an effective treatment plan. When the injection provides pain relief, Dr. Malik may recommend a procedure called a neurotomy to provide long-term pain relief.

Stellate ganglion nerve block

The stellate ganglion is a group of nerves located at the base of your neck. These nerves are part of the sympathetic nervous system.

Stellate ganglion nerve blocks help treat or diagnose the cause of pain in your neck, arms, head, face, and chest. These nerve blocks can be used to treat both uncommon and common types of pain, including angina and migraines, as well as chronic regional pain syndrome and phantom limb pain following amputation. They may also be used to manage symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Choosing the right nerve block

As a pain management specialist, Dr. Malik is skilled in all three types of nerve blocks using the most advanced technology and techniques for optimal outcomes. Before recommending any type of nerve block, Dr. Malik performs a comprehensive evaluation of your symptoms, along with a review of prior treatments that haven’t proven effective.

Nerve blocks can provide effective, long-term pain relief when other options have failed. To learn more about nerve blocks and which is best to help manage your symptoms, request an appointment online or over the phone with Dr. Malik and the team at Superior Pain Relief in Houston, Baytown, Willis, and The Woodlands, Texas, today.

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