An injection of an anesthetic or anti-inflammatory agent to turn off pain signals or inflammation in a specific region of the body. Nerve blocks have several uses, such as locating the source of pain, treating painful conditions and predicting how well pain will respond to long-term treatments such as surgery. Doctors use nerve blocks for chronic pain when medications and other treatments fail to adequately control pain or cause unacceptable side effects.
To perform the nerve block, the doctor uses imaging technology such as fluoroscopy or a computed tomography (CT) scan for guidance to inject the medicine into exactly the right spot. Local anesthetics used in nerve blocks include lidocaine, bupivacaine and ropivacaine, and a corticosteroid may be used to address inflammation. Nerve blocks may alleviate chronic pain for up to 12 months. Some patients require several rounds of nerve blocks before experiencing lasting pain relief—and some patients never achieve permanent relief.
Common risks include rash, itching and infection and soreness at the injection site. Because of the minimal risk associated with radiation, women should inform their physician if there is any chance they are pregnant.