What Are Precision Nerve Injections? How Are They Administered?
Precision nerve injections are used for both diagnosis and pain control in the spine. A slender needle is inserted in the problem area under the guidance either of X-rays or by Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRIs). Physicians watch the images while they guide the injection to exactly the spot necessary to heal the nerve.
The injection is given under a minor local anesthetic of the skin and muscle, so the patient feels nothing while the precision injection is being given. The patient lies on his or her stomach during the procedure, which takes about 10 minutes.
How Does it Work?
The injection solution is comprised of a small amount of anesthetic and a steroid solution. The anesthetic deadens the pain inside and lasts a few hours. This will allow the pain in your back to disappear for that time.
The steroids are the active inhibitors of pain signals and they reduce nerve inflammation over time. Once the procedure is over, the patient is monitored for a short while, usually about 20 minutes. The patient is then released to a companion who will drive them home.
What Results Should I Expect?
After coming home, the patient is usually counseled to use ice packs for 20 minutes each hour. The patient may return to work the next day if the job does not involve heavy lifting or hard physical labor. The patient’s back may be sore for a few days, but pain relief from the steroids should be evident within a week. If the back pain doesn’t respond after the first injection, a second may be performed after a few weeks. Generally, no more than three injections are recommended in a calendar year. It is important to remember that these nerve injections provide only temporary relief, helping mainly by aiding the body’s own healing ability.
What Conditions Can Be Treated Using Precision Nerve Injections?
The procedure is most commonly used for herniated discs, narrowing of the spine (spinal stenosis), degenerative disc disease, among many other spinal conditions. There are many back disabilities that are treated with precision nerve injections. Here are some of the most common.
- Selective Nerve Root Injections (SNRI): This injections is also known as a transforaminal injection. This procedure puts the steroid medication around a nerve root as it leaves the spine.
- Sympathetic Ganglion Block: In addition to the selective nerve blocks, the physician can also block sympathetic ganglia, which helps conditions like certain sacral problems and complex problems such as complex regional pain syndrome.
- Epidural Injections: With these injections, the solution is placed in the space around the spinal cord and nerves. This helps pain, numbness and tingling associated with irritated spinal nerves. This can be an alternative to surgery for this condition.
- Nerve Blocks: The medication is placed near a nerve or nerve group to treat pain. The injections finds where the pain is originating and switches the pain signal off.
Are There Any Risks or Side Effects?
The risks of these procedures can include infections, bleeding or original symptoms becoming worse. No one taking blood-thinning medication should have the procedures. Diabetics may find that the steroids increase their blood glucose levels.
Steroids also have the effect of edema, weight gain from increased appetite, mood swings, insomnia, irritability and suppressing the body’s natural steroid production. These side effects are generally mild and self-limiting. If you have concerns, ask your physician before undergoing any procedure.
Peter Wendt is a blogger living in Austin, Texas. Wendt worked in the medical field for years, before becoming a full-time blogger and researcher. If you think you might be a candidate for precision nerve injections, Wendt highly recommends setting up a consultation with a physician at Advanced Pain Care.