When Should You Consider Nerve Blocks to Treat Chronic Pain?

woman holding kneck

If you or someone you love suffers from chronic pain, you’re searching for relief. A significant number of Americans — 17.6%, or about 40 million adults — suffer from "severe levels" of chronic pain, making everyday life a difficult experience, whether it’s searing pain if you bend over, reach for a glass in a kitchen cabinet, or move from a sitting to a standing position.

If this describes you, you’re no longer free to live life as you once knew it; your world may shrink to the distance from your home to the pharmacy and your doctor’s office.

If you’ve previously had a stroke, heart attack, surgery, or an injury to an arm or a leg and have developed chronic throbbing or burning pain, you may have developed complex regional pain syndrome — pain that doctors don’t completely understand and that persists long after the injury. Or your pain may come from a back condition or any other number of causes.

You may no longer be able to engage in activities that used to bring pleasure — leisurely hikes, swing dancing, tennis, or other sports you’ve played all your life. You’re seeking answers to help make life worth living again. Nerve blocks may be an answer to relieve your ongoing pain.  

What is a nerve block?

A nerve block is an injection of a local anesthetic or an anesthetic and steroid into the painful area; the injection numbs the surrounding nerves, relieving the pain. Nerve blocks may become part of a pain management and treatment protocol for your particular condition.

The goal is to improve your physical functioning so that you’re able to engage in normal daily activities without assistance and once again be able to experience pleasure and an absence of pain.

When should I consider getting a nerve block for chronic pain?

Pain after surgery or during an illness is normal, but if your pain continues long after the operation or even when you’re no longer ill, it’s considered chronic. The formal definition of chronic pain is pain that lasts longer than 12 weeks.

If you have chronic, debilitating pain that prevents you from engaging in your normal activities, it’s time to consider nerve blocks.

What types of conditions do nerve blocks treat?

Dr. Zaffarkhan administers nerve blocks that work on the sympathetic nerves and the occipital nerves.

Conditions treated with a sympathetic nerve block

Your sympathetic nerves start in the spinal cord and radiate to many areas in your body.

Examples of conditions Dr. Zaffarkhan treats with a sympathetic nerve block include:

  • Contractions in your blood vessels
  • Complex regional pain syndrome
  • Raynaud's syndrome
  • Some types of stomach cramps
  • Muscle contractions

Dr. Zaffarkhan injects a local anesthetic that numbs the nerves and stops the pain. The nerve block may also change the pattern of nerve signals to the brain and diminish your pain for good.

Conditions treated with an occipital nerve block

If you suffer from severe migraine headaches that prescription drugs don’t help, you may be a candidate for an occipital nerve block. Your occipital nerves are in the back of your head,  extending from the neck to your scalp.

A nerve block in the area of your occipital nerves can help relieve pain from chronic tension headaches, migraine headaches, or facial neuralgia that may be caused by an irritated or damaged nerve. It reduces inflammation and irritation of the occipital nerves and stops the pain signals from reaching your brain.

Nerve Block Pros & Cons

There are many advantages to treating chronic pain using nerve blocks.

Nerve block pros include

  • Reduction in use of over-the-counter and prescription drugs
  • Relieves pain for weeks or months
  • Relieves inflammation
  • May help to diagnose cause of pain
  • Helps you function physically and resume normal daily activities
  • Provides psychological benefits; may lift your mood when you feel better physically

Nerve block cons may include:

  • They aren’t permanent
  • May need multiple injections 
  • May need injection sites on multiple areas of your body

It is best to talk with a medical professional when considering nerve block pros and cons. They don't last forever, but they can offer much-needed relief from chronic pain and help you manage it. With today’s modern technology, you no longer have to suffer in silence with chronic pain.

Call or book an appointment online with the Regenerative Institute of Newport Beach. Relief is a phone call away.