Peripheral nerve block injections can be used to confirm and to alleviate chronic pain caused by nerve damage. When nerves become compressed due to swelling it can be difficult to pinpoint the area causing pain because the area that hurts may not be related to the source of the pain. Correct diagnosis is essential for the treatment of pain and can also prevent unnecessary surgery.
In order to understand how peripheral nerve block injections work it’s necessary to understand basic nerve structure. The nerves found within the spinal column and the brain are known as central nerves. The nerves outside the spinal column are peripheral nerves and these are located along pathways in various parts of the body. When pain causes swelling it causes the nerve to become ‘trapped’ which can signal pain to a different area of the body called referred pain. For example, when someone has a heart attack there may not be any pain the chest area at all, while all the pain may be felt in the arm. Because nerves from the heart enter the spinal column at the same level as the nerves from the arm the pain is signalled to the brain which is then interpreted as pain coming from the arm – referred pain.
A nerve block injection is effective and accurate confirming pain because an injection can numb the nerve and if the pain subsides; it validate the cause of pain coming from that particular nerve. In addition, when time-released medication is added to the injection it reduces both swelling and pain. Injections can pinpoint nerve problems and alsoprovide therapeutic pain relief. Because referred pain can cause pain in areas that are not the cause of the problem, identifying the affected nerve without the use of peripheral nerve block injections would be most difficult.
In some cases using peripheral nerve block injections to identify exact causes of pain can help avoid unnecessary medical procedures such as surgery. Using the lower back to illustrate this point, studies conclude that as many as 60% of patients with a herniated disc showed no signs of back pain. In many cases a herniated discs can create a number of problems including sciatica which causes leg pain. In a case of the herniated disc not
being the central cause of the pain, surgery on the herniated disc won’t stop or eliminate leg pain. The correct diagnosis is essential for the treatment of chronic pain and it can also prevent unnecessary surgeries.
When peripheral nerve block injections are used as a treatment the pain caused by the targeted nerve typically goes away when blocked by a local anaesthetic and injections can provide permanent relief. If the injection provides only temporary relief other treatment options would be sought out and would vary among individuals.