A Nerve Root Block is a procedure where an anti-inflammatory medication is injected at a specific nerve root in order to diagnose and treat upper back, neck, shoulder and arm pain.
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Frequently Asked Questions
If you have pain in your upper back or neck when you move your head, you may have dural inflammation. If pain moves to your arm when you move your neck or head, you may have nerve root inflammation.
Typical tests such as MRIs can show disc bulges and nerve root compression, but may not expose a leaking disc. A nerve block injection can provide relief if disc problems or nerve root inflammation are causing you pain.
A corticosteroid (anti-inflammatory medicine) is injected into your affected area to reduce inflammation. A local anesthetic can also be injected to numb the inflamed area. If the needle is positioned right next to an individual nerve root, this is called a selective nerve root block. This puts medication right along your inflamed nerve root. A selective nerve root block can determine if a particular nerve is causing you pain.
A local anesthetic will be used to numb the inflamed area. Our doctor will then insert a thin needle right into the affected area. Fluoroscopy, a type of x-ray, must be used to ensure the safe and proper position of the needle. A dye can also be used to make sure the needle is at the correct spot.
Once our doctor is sure the needle is correctly placed to block your nerves, the medicine will be injected.
You will be observed for about 30 minutes after the injection. When you are ready to leave, our staff will give you discharge instructions. You will also be given a pain diary. It is important to fill this out because it helps our doctors know how the injection is working.
It may help to move your neck in ways that hurt before the injection, to see if the pain is still there, but do not overdo it. Take it easy for the rest of the day.
You may feel actual pain relief and numbness in your neck and arm for a period of time after the injection. This tells you that the nerve block reached the correct spot.
Your pain may come back after this short pain-free period, or may even be a little worse for the next day or so. It may be caused by needle irritation or by the medication itself. Corticosteroids generally take two or three days to start working, but can take as long as a week.
You can generally return to work the day after the nerve block injection, but always check with one of our doctors.
The duration of pain relief can depend on the amount of disc, dural or nerve root inflammation. Other coexisting factors may be responsible for your pain. Occasionally an injection brings pain relief for several weeks to months, and then further treatment is needed. Sometimes, a single injection brings long-term pain relief. If your pain is caused by injury to more than one area, only some of your symptoms can be helped by a single nerve block injection.