Pain-relief injections are a highly effective, nonsurgical way to provide lasting relief for muscle, joint, and nerve pain. Depending on the location and source of your pain, different types of injections may be used to provide relief. Two of the most common and effective treatments are facet blocks and nerve blocks.
A facet block is an injection of local anesthetic and steroid that reduces the inflammation in the joint space of the spine. The facet joints are located in the neck, chest, and back at each vertebral level. A medial branch block is similar, but the difference is that the medication is injected outside the facet joint space near the medial branch nerves that supply the joint.
Facet blocks and medial branch blocks are typically ordered for patients who have back pain due to injury, arthritic changes in the facet joints, or stress on the spine.
The injections can be diagnostic as well as therapeutic. For example, if the pain does not disappear as a result of the block, it indicates the pain may be coming from a source other than the treated facet joints. Or, if the pain goes away for a few hours but returns and isn’t any better, it may help rule out steroids as an effective treatment.
Often, the injected steroid has a long-lasting effect on the pain. In these cases, a facet block may be repeated. Another procedure, radiofrequency lesioning, may help ensure relief that could last for years.
Facet joint injections are a common outpatient procedure that usually takes just 10-15 minutes to complete. It is performed under imaging guidance, such as fluoroscopy or a CT scan, to enable the doctor to better see the area being treated. You may notice your pain subside for a few hours immediately following the injection, due to the injected anesthetic. Then, if the procedure is successful, you’ll notice lasting relief within 48-72 hours.
The type of nerve block performed will depend on the source and location of your pain. Two primary types are:
- A lumbar sympathetic block is a test that helps identify the cause of symptoms in your lower extremities, including burning, pain, or tingling in your legs or feet. The injection blocks the sympathetic nerves in the region where the medication is injected near the spine. If the sympathetic nerves are causing your problem, the temperature in your feet will rise quickly. This treatment may be repeated a week to two weeks apart in a series of three nerve blocks.
- An occipital nerve block is used to diagnose and treat intense head or eye pain caused by inflamed occipital nerves. It is used to relieve or reduce the pain in the back of the head and the scalp. The block may be done on either the left or right side of the back of the head.
During the procedure, your pain management doctor will inject a local anesthetic and steroid into the affected area. Immediately after the injection you may notice that your pain has subsided or lessened considerably.
Both types of pain-relief injections, facet blocks and nerve blocks, are safe and have an extremely low risk of complications – especially when compared to surgical alternatives.
Are you tired of taking pain medication every day, only to still be in pain? If you need relief that lasts for weeks or months, we can help. Pain Specialists of Austin helps patients like you every day. To discuss your pain-relief options, call (855) 876-7246 for an appointment today. We have 10 convenient locations in and around the Austin, Texas, area. You can also request an appointment online.