It’s not unusual for orthopedic patients to experience pain stemming from the irritation of sensitive nerve roots, especially those located within or around the spine. The type of discomfort often experienced is known as radiculopathy, referring to pain originating in one location that’s felt in another place — e.g., sciatic nerve pain felt in the buttocks, hips, or legs. One way to target nerve roots is with nerve blocks. It’s a procedure that can be done for both diagnostic and therapeutic or pain management purposes.
Why Consider a Nerve Root Block?
A nerve root block may be done to confirm that a certain nerve is the cause of your spine-related pain. This is important because pain of this nature is sometimes difficult to diagnose. For instance, lower back pain alone could be caused by a herniated disc, an irritated piriformis muscle located deep within the buttock, issues with spinal (facet) joints, or spinal narrowing (spinal stenosis). Once the correct nerve is identified, nerve root injections may be used to reduce inflammation and improve your comfort. If you’re an orthopedic patient, nerve blocks may help you by:
- Confirming a source of your pain
- Allow you to experience enough relief to fully participate in physical therapy sessions
- Improving your daily quality of life
How Is a Nerve Block Given?
Because you’ll need to provide feedback so it can be determined if you are experiencing relief, you’ll remain awake during the procedure. Before the needle is inserted, you’ll be given a local anesthetic to help maintain your comfort. The needle, which contains a mixture of a local anesthetic and corticosteroid anti-inflammatory medication, is then inserted with guidance from a special type of live X-ray called a fluoroscopy. A contrast dye is used to further ensure proper placement. You’ll be asked to compare any symptoms you may be experiencing during the procedure with what you normally deal with.
After the procedure, you should be able to safely get back to your normal activities within a day. If the block is being given for pain management purposes, your symptoms may come back for a short period of time until the steroid medication begins to fully work. Complications associated with nerve blocks are considered rare. Typically, up to three injections may be safely given within a six-month period. To see if you may benefit from this type of procedure, contact us at one of our six convenient locations for additional information on nerve blocks.