If you suffer from chronic pain, the first thing you need to know is that there’s hope. While pain can be debilitating, depressing, and detrimental to a person’s life in numerous ways, there are newer, more advanced treatments that are making a difference.
One solution that’s growing in popularity is nerve block injections. If you’re considering this treatment option, you may have a lot of questions, including, “How long do nerve block injections last?” Understanding the typical duration of nerve block injections can help clarify expectations while you and your medical care provider develop an effective pain management plan.
Let’s take a closer look at nerve block injections and how long you might expect their effectiveness to last, along with some helpful tips for managing chronic pain.
What Are Nerve Block Injections?
Nerve block injections are a form of treatment that involves injecting medication directly into or around a nerve or group of nerves to block pain signals from reaching the brain. They are commonly used to treat various types of chronic pain conditions, such as back and neck pain, joint pain, and neuropathic pain.
For many patients, physical therapy can become too painful to continue. Nerve block injections are often used to overcome intense pain in an effort to help patients complete the physical therapy needed to treat the root case of their pain.
There are several types of nerve block injections, including:
Epidural Nerve Blocks
These injections are administered into the epidural space surrounding the spinal cord, often used to treat back and leg pain.
Facet Joint Nerve Blocks
These nerve blocks target the facet joints in the spine, helping to alleviate neck and back pain.
Medial Branch Nerve Blocks
Medical branch nerve blocks disrupt the medial branch nerves responsible for transmitting pain signals from facet joints.
Sympathetic Nerve Blocks
This treatment targets the sympathetic nervous system and targets complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) and other neuropathic pain conditions.
Factors Affecting the Duration of Nerve Block Injections
If you want to know the answer to “How long do nerve block injections last?”, there are several factors that can influence the duration of a nerve block injection. These factors include:
The Type of Nerve Block Used
Different types of nerve blocks can last for different periods of time. For example, an epidural nerve block typically lasts longer than a medial branch nerve block.
Each Patient’s Individual Response
Each patient may react differently to nerve block injections, with some experiencing longer-lasting pain relief than others. Their type of condition plays a central role in the effectiveness of any treatment.
Severity and Location of Pain
The duration of a nerve block injection may depend on the intensity of the pain and the part(s) of the body being treated. More severe or widespread pain may require more frequent injections to maintain relief.
Frequency of Injections
Repeated nerve block injections can sometimes lead to longer-lasting effects as the nerves become more responsive to the medication.
How Long Do Different Types of Nerve Block Injections Typically Last?
The typical duration of a nerve block injection varies depending on the type:
- Epidural nerve block duration — Anywhere from a few days to several months, depending on the medication used and the patient’s response.
- Facet joint nerve block duration — Several weeks to a few months.
- Medial branch nerve block duration — Several weeks to months, although some patients may experience longer-lasting effects.
- Sympathetic nerve block duration — Several weeks to months, with some patients experiencing prolonged effects.
It is important to note that individual experiences may vary, and patients should consult with their healthcare provider to determine what to expect from their specific treatment plan.
Potential Side Effects and Risks
As with any medical procedure, nerve block injections carry some potential side effects and risks. Short-term side effects may include minor pain at the injection site, temporary numbness or weakness, and bruising. Some long-term risks associated with nerve block injections can include infection, bleeding, and nerve damage.
To minimize side effects and risks, patients should:
- Follow all pre- and post-procedure instructions provided by the healthcare provider
- Promptly report any unusual symptoms or concerns
- Maintain open communication with the healthcare provider about pain levels and any side effects
Alternative Treatments for Chronic Pain
While nerve block injections can be effective in managing chronic pain, some patients may benefit from additional treatments. These may include:
Other Pain Management Procedures
Pain management specialists treat chronic pain with a variety of treatments beyond nerve block injections, including trigger point injections, corticosteroid injections, and radiofrequency ablations, among others.
A physical therapist can help patients develop a tailored exercise program to improve strength, flexibility, and overall function, and can even reduce the chance of pain returning in the future.
Dry needling involves inserting thin needles into targeted points in your muscles. The needles are not attached to any medication or solution, and they do not inject anything into your body. Results vary depending on the patient.
Various massage techniques can help to relax muscles, improve circulation, and relieve pain.
Over-the-counter or prescription pain medications may provide additional relief in conjunction with other treatments. However, be cautious; some medications come with harmful side effects — including addiction — especially with prolonged use.
Tips for Managing Chronic Pain with Nerve Block Injections
To optimize the benefits of nerve block injections and manage chronic pain effectively, patients should work closely with a pain management specialist to develop a comprehensive treatment plan. It’s helpful to set realistic expectations for your pain relief, understanding that nerve block injections may not completely eliminate pain for all patients.
Be sure to stay consistent with your treatment plan and follow-up appointments to ensure the best possible results. You might also consider incorporating complementary coping strategies such as meditation or yoga to improve your overall well-being.
Treat Your Pain with HPM
Understanding the duration of nerve block injections is essential for chronic pain patients in managing expectations and developing an effective pain management plan. By working closely with healthcare providers and exploring various treatment options, individuals living with chronic pain can take control of their symptoms and improve their quality of life.
If you live in a rural area in the central to western parts of the U.S., check to see if there’s an HPM clinic near you. HPM pain management specialists are uniquely trained to diagnose and treat a long list of painful conditions. Visit our website to search for a location near you.
For more helpful information about treating chronic pain, visit HPM’s blog.