Nerve blocks are used for pain treatment and management. There are several different types of nerve blocks that serve different purposes.
Often a group of nerves, called a plexus or ganglion, that causes pain to a specific organ or body region can be blocked with the injection of medication into a specific area of the body. The injection of this nerve-numbing substance is called a nerve block.
How Are Nerve Blocks Used?
Different kinds of nerve blocks are used for different purposes.
- Therapeutic nerve blocks are used to treat painful conditions. Such nerve blocks contain local anesthetic that can be used to control acute pain.
- Diagnostic nerve blocks are used to determine sources of pain. These blocks typically contain an anesthetic with a known duration of relief.
- Prognostic nerve blocks predict the outcomes of given treatments. For example, a nerve block may be performed to determine if more permanent treatments (such as surgery) would be successful in treating pain.
- Preemptive nerve blocks are meant to prevent subsequent pain from a procedure that can cause problems including phantom limb pain.
- Nerve blocks can be used, in some cases, to avoid surgery.
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 used.
- 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 paravertebral 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)