The term “nerve block” applies to any injection of medication, including local anesthetics, steroids, and opioids, into or around a nerve. A nerve block can be used for a variety of purposes, such as diagnostic, prognostic, therapeutic, and preemptive.
A nerve block may be used diagnostically to determine the source of a patient’s pain. By performing a series of injections to different areas and noting the amount of pain reduction that correlates with each area, a physician can determine where a person’s pain is coming from. The nerve blocks then function prognostically, as well; since the doctor knows what is causing the pain, they are better able to predict the outcome of different treatment methods.
A nerve block may also be used therapeutically to diminish a patient’s pain. For instance, a person may be given a nerve block before a surgery, so that they are unaware of the associated pain. A person may also be given a nerve block to soothe an inflamed nerve that is causing the person to experience pain, or to treat chronic pain that has not been amenable to drugs or other treatments.
Lastly, a nerve block may be used to address pain expected to occur after a surgery, such as the phantom limb pain that often follows an amputation.
When dealing with pain related to a single nerve or group of nerves, nerve blocks have a variety of functions that can help people become manage their pain.
Side effects and outcomes are unique to each patient and will be discussed before any treatment options are prescribed.