Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome
Complex Regional Pain Syndrome
What are nerve blocks?
Often a group of nerves, called a plexus or ganglion, that causes pain to a specific organ or
body region can be blocked with local medicine. The injection (shot) of this nerve-numbing
substance is called a nerve block. Nerve blocks can be used, in some cases, to avoid
How are nerve blocks used?
Different types of nerve blocks are used for different purposes. When used for therapeutic
purposes, nerve blocks treat painful conditions. Such nerve blocks contain local anesthetic
(pain-relieving medicine) that can be used to control acute pain. Therapeutic nerve blocks
can provide periods of dramatic pain relief. These nerve blocks usually contain a steroid-
like substance. Diagnostic nerve blocks help doctors determine sources of pain. These
blocks typically contain an anesthetic with known duration of relief. Prognostic nerve
blocks predict the outcomes of given treatments. Pre-emptive nerve blocks are meant to
prevent subsequent pain from a procedure that can cause problems, including phantom
Types of nerve blocks
Various areas of pain require different nerve block types. Below are a few of the available
nerve blocks, followed in parentheses by some of the parts of the body for which they are
Trigeminal nerve blocks (face)
Ophthalmic nerve block (eyelids and scalp)
Supraorbital nerve block (forehead)
Maxillary nerve block (upper jaw)
Sphenopalatine nerve block (nose and palate)
Cervical epidural, thoracic epidural, and lumbar epidural block (neck and back)
Cervical plexus block and cervical para-vertebral block (shoulder and upper neck)
Brachial plexus block, elbow block, and wrist block (shoulder/arm/hand, elbow, and wrist)
Subarachnoid block and celiac plexus block (abdomen and pelvis)
Other nerve blocks
A sympathetic nerve block is one that is performed to determine if there is damage to the
sympathetic nerve chain. This is a network of nerves extending the length of the spine.
These nerves control some of the involuntary functions of the body, such as opening and
narrowing blood vessels.
A stellate ganglion block is a type of sympathetic nerve block. It is performed to determine
if there is damage to the sympathetic nerve chain supplying the head, neck, chest, and
arms, and if it is the source of the patient’s pain in those areas. Although used mainly as a
diagnostic block, the stellate ganglion might provide pain relief in excess of the duration of
A facet joint block (also known as a zygapophysial joint block) is performed to determine
whether a facet joint is a source of pain. Facet joints are located on the back of the spine,
where one vertebra slightly overlaps another. These joints guide and restrict the spine’s
Nerve blocks are not always the answer
Although many types of nerve blocks exist, this treatment cannot always be used. Nerve
blocks can carry risks, including:
Elevated blood sugars
Slight weight gain
Soreness at the site of injection
Death (in rare cases)
Your doctor can advise you as to whether this treatment is appropriate for you.
Never let it beat you!