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Understanding Your Body's Fight-or-Flight Mechanism

Understanding Your Body's Fight-or-Flight Mechanism

Most people have heard of the fight-or-flight mechanism, the built-in response system that helps you quickly evaluate and react to stressful situations. And when you’re under stress, that system kicks in to keep you safe and out of danger.

But sometimes, the fight-or-flight response overreacts or gets stuck in the “on” position. When that happens, you can wind up with persistent anxiety or related symptoms, including chronic pain.

At Superior Pain Relief in Spring, Houston, Baytown, Willis, and The Woodlands, Texas, Zaid Malik, MD, and his dedicated team help manage overactive fight-or-flight reactions with a special nerve block. Here’s what happens in the fight-or-flight response and how a stellate ganglion blockade could help reduce chronic pain and other symptoms.

Quick facts about the stellate ganglion

A ganglion is a cluster or grouping of nerve cells. These clusters are located throughout your body. The stellate ganglion is located in the front of your neck on either side of your voice box (larynx), near your uppermost ribs.

Named for its star-like, or stellar, shape, the stellate ganglion plays a big role in your sympathetic nervous system — the system that helps you respond to danger. It controls your heart rate, circulation activity, and other factors triggered in the presence of stress.

When you’re in a potentially dangerous situation or environment, the stellate ganglion fires off signals in rapid succession, supporting the fight-or-flight responses that keep you safe. 

When this group of nerves continues to fire or fires at the wrong time, it can lead to a perpetual state of anxiety and contribute to persistent musculoskeletal pain, including pain associated with syndromes like fibromyalgia and chronic regional pain syndrome (CRPS).

Stellate ganglion nerve block

The stellate ganglion nerve block is a special injection used to treat pain that involves an abnormal nerve response. In addition to treating pain syndromes, stellate ganglion nerve blocks help relieve:

Nerve blocks can also treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other anxiety disorders, along with excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis). Delivered directly to the nerve clusters, nerve blocks prevent signals from reaching the brain where painful or uncomfortable symptoms are interpreted. 

Its location near the upper spine makes the stellate ganglion nerve block especially effective in treating symptoms in the head, neck, arms, and chest.

What to expect

The procedure for a stellate ganglion nerve block takes about 20-30 minutes. Prior to your injection, you receive a sedative to help you relax. 

We cleanse your neck and apply an antiseptic to the injection site, followed by a local anesthetic to numb the area. The block itself uses a very thin needle to deliver the medication that blocks nerve signals. Diagnostic imaging helps guide the needle to the precise location for maximum benefit.

Afterward, you remain in an observation area for about 30 minutes to an hour before being discharged. Be sure to arrange to have someone with you who can drive you home.

Learn more about nerve blocks

Stellate ganglion nerve blocks can be very effective in relieving pain associated with the sympathetic nervous system and an overreacting fight-or-flight response, but Superior Pain Relief offers other nerve blocks, as well. 

To learn how we can help you manage your chronic pain safely and effectively, request an appointment online or over the phone today.

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