Sympathetic Nerve Block

What You Need to Know

Often chronic pain can be maintained by the sympathetic nervous system. By blocking bundles of sympathetic nerves, pain relief can be achieved. Such blocks can be very useful for treatment of complex regional pain syndrome, or CRPS (formerly known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy). Other conditions treated by these blocks include phantom limb pain, cancer pain, postherpetic neuralgia, facial pain and certain types of headaches.

What to expect

Sympathetic nerve blocks can be performed for the upper and lower portions of the body. 

Sedation may be offered for sympathetic nerve blocks. For blocks of the lower extremity, you will be Lying comfortably on your abdomen and an X-ray machine is used to visualize the vertebrae in your lower back. The skin on your back is then sterilized and numbed with local anesthetic After that, a small needle is safely guided to the front of your spine where your sympathetic nerves lie. Sometimes a second needle is guided to the opposite side as well. Once the correct position is confirmed, local anesthetic is injected through the needles. You may experience warmth in your legs and feet. This is a normal and expected reaction.

Recovery

After a brief recovery period, during which time your vital signs are monitored, you are free to go about your normal activities. There are no restrictions following this procedure, but if you did receive sedation, a driver will be required. You will be advised to keep track of how much pain relief you experience and how long this relief lasts.