What You Should Know About Nerve Blocks

A nerve block can treat severe joint pain or arthritic conditions, and improve quality of life. If you and your physician decide that this is the right treatment for you, we tell you what to expect.

 

Severe joint pain can take a toll on daily function, impede physical therapy, and reduce quality of life. Nerve blocks are one option to treat pain. A nerve block is an injection of local anesthetic and steroid directly into the area of the affected nerve to control pain. We explain what you can expect with this treatment.

  • The idea of the injection is usually worse than the reality. No one likes the idea of needles, but care is taken to make you as comfortable as possible during the procedure. Some arthritic conditions may involve up to six needles, but they are the exception to the rule; most procedures are brief, lasting between five and fifteen minutes. Much of the time is spent preparing for the Imaging used for accurate needle placement, and recovering afterwards. In some cases, local anesthetic or IV sedation are used to reduce pain even further.
  • Everyone responds differently to nerve block treatment. Some patients experience immediate relief; others need a series of injections before their pain diminishes. Because pain is a matter of personal perception, an individual patient’s response is very unpredictable.
  • Be prepared for post-procedure soreness. A needle is an invasive procedure, so once any local anesthetic wears off, you should expect some discomfort that will dissipate within a few days of the treatment. It may also take a few days for you to feel the benefit of the steroid. Expect to experience the peak effect of the steroid between three and ten days following the injection.
  • Injection frequency is guided by your medical history. Most patients can receive nerve blocks between three and six times a year. Patients with medical conditions like diabetes will receive less frequent injections.

When appropriate, nerve block injections can decrease pain, improve function, and sometimes increase the amount of beneficial physical therapy a patient can tolerate.

 

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