What is a Sympathetic Block in Pain Management?

What is a Sympathetic Block? Integrated Pain Consultants, Scottsdale

What is a Sympathetic Block in Pain Management?

Finding the right pain management treatment is crucial, and your Integrated Pain Consultants might recommend sympathetic blocks as part of your treatment plan—but what are they? If you haven’t enjoyed adequate pain relief with medication or steroid injection for the back, neck or knees, it might be time to try something new. We also invite you to learn more about Dr. Nikesh Seth and other providers including Dr. Anne-Marie CosijnsDr. Lisa SparksDr. Michael Givens, and our team of Nurse Practitioners.

Everyone has sympathetic nerves that start in the spinal cord. From there, they branch out to every part of the body. The sympathetic nerves work in tandem with the autonomic nervous system to send signals to the brain relating pain, temperature, pressure, and touch. However, nerve blocks can stop these signals, letting you function without pain. Technically, the pain is still there, but you won’t feel or (or the feeling lessens).

How We Experience Pain is Relative

Sympathetic blocks don’t “fix” what’s causing the pain, but they do stop you from experiencing it. For some patients, this means a return to activities of daily living and the ability to move forward with physical therapy. Sympathetic blocks might be used in conjunction with another form of pain management, or with an approach to addressing the root of the pain, or it might be used as the solo means of addressing pain.

If your doctor recommends sympathetic nerve block injections, you’ll be given a local numbing agent followed by a corticosteroid injection where the sympathetic nerve is in the body. The treatment is fast, safe and painless. However, the right nerve has to be targeted which is why it’s so important to have a trusted medical team in your corner.

The goal? Re-program the brain and spinal cord to minimize or even remove the pain. This can decrease dependency on opioids, sometimes entirely, which also means a reduction in nausea. Some patients enjoy easier breathing thanks to pain management, better mobility, and a reduction in swelling.

X Marks the Spot For Pain Management

Where the pain is tells your doctor where to inject the corticosteroid. Sympathetic nerves are bundled outside the spine and located inside ganglions (thick bundles of nerves). However, it’s not always where the pain is. For example, upper body pain might require an injection in the neck. Your doctor will use fluoroscopy, a type of X-ray, to guide the injection. In total, the process takes under 15 minutes.

A Pain in the…

Many conditions might benefit from sympathetic blocks. However, some of the most common include headaches, neck pain, neuropathy in the extremities, facial pain, knee pain, complex regional pain syndrome, and excessive sweating.

Interested in learning more? Call the pain management experts at Integrated Pain Consultants at 480-626-2252 to schedule a consultation.

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