Do you suffer from chronic pain in your lower back, legs, or feet? Chronic pain in these areas can stem from many different conditions. But regardless of what causes it, chronic pain interferes with the activities you need or want to do. Lumbar sympathetic nerve blocks are a simple, minimally invasive procedure that may help relieve your chronic pain.
WHAT IS A LUMBAR SYMPATHETIC NERVE BLOCK?
On your lumbar (lower) spine, there are nerves on each side of your spine known as sympathetic nerves. These nerves are part of the autonomic nervous system, which regulates your unconscious body functions such as heart rate and blood flow.
In some cases, the sympathetic nerves can also transmit pain signals. This usually occurs after injuries and leaves you with chronic pain in your back, legs, or feet.
A lumbar sympathetic nerve block is an injection into the area of your spine around the sympathetic nerves that are causing you pain. The injection contains a numbing agent and sometimes a steroid medication. This injection blocks the pain signals coming from the sympathetic nerves, alleviating your pain.
WHAT DOES A LUMBAR SYMPATHETIC NERVE BLOCK TREAT?
If you’ve had a lumbar region injury that’s healed but you’re still experiencing pain, you may have complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). This is when sympathetic nerves continue to send pain signals, despite your initial injury healing. People with CRPS often benefit from lumbar sympathetic nerve blocks.
Sympathetic nerve blocks can also relieve pain from:
- Vascular disease in the legs
- Shingles to the legs
- Some neuropathies
- Phantom limb syndrome in the legs and arms
Many patients with conditions like these have found pain relief from sympathetic nerve blocks. When you come in for your consultation, we’ll review your history to see if this type of treatment is right for you.
HOW LONG DOES A SYMPATHETIC NERVE BLOCK LAST?
Some people feel pain relief from a lumbar sympathetic nerve block within a few hours due to the anesthetic used in the injection. This pain relief can last for days, but it depends on the person and their condition.
Every situation is different. If a steroid medicine is used in your injection, the pain and inflammation-reducing effects could take a couple of days to take effect.
You may need multiple injections for maximum pain relief. If your lumbar sympathetic nerve block is effective, we’ll know to target that same area to further manage your pain. This will also give us valuable information about possible next steps to help you achieve longer-lasting pain relief.
WHAT TO EXPECT DURING YOUR VISIT
Lumbar sympathetic nerve blocks are relatively quick outpatient procedures that are performed in our offices.
When you come in for your procedure, you’ll change into a gown and relax face down on the treatment table. We may give you sedative medication to keep you calm and comfortable, so you’ll need a ride home.
The area for your injection will be cleaned. Then, your doctor will insert a small hollow needle near the sympathetic nerves. You may feel some pressure or discomfort during this part of the procedure.
The doctor will use x-ray guidance to make sure the needle is placed precisely where it should be, then inject the medicine near the sympathetic nerve that’s causing your pain.
After the procedure, we’ll monitor you for around half an hour. You may feel some temporary weakness or numbness in your legs due to the numbing medicine, but it will subside in a short time.
You should avoid strenuous activity for 24 hours. You can take Tylenol for discomfort or use ice on your injection site if there’s any soreness after the injection. But you’ll need to avoid anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen or blood thinners for 24 hours.
If you’re living with chronic pain in your legs or back, OC Wellness Physicians Medical Group can help.
Schedule a consultation today with our expert team of pain-management providers to see if a lumbar sympathetic nerve block is right for you.