Pinpoint the Source of Your Back Pain With a Nerve Block

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Back pain affects millions of Americans. But although it’s common, pinpointing the source isn’t always easy. Learn how nerve blocks work to diagnose and treat back pain — and find out if this method could be right for you.

Back pain is a common problem that affects eight in 10 Americans during their lifetimes. It can be caused by a huge variety of factors, from injury and overuse to underlying medical conditions.

And unfortunately for many back pain sufferers, pinpointing the source of the pain is difficult — or impossible. When the cause is unknown, it becomes even more difficult to find an effective treatment.

Dr. Maher Ibrahim and our team at Interventional Pain Management Associates in Hamilton, New Jersey, offer a better way. A nerve block is a minimally invasive procedure that not only pinpoints the source of your back pain, but can also offer much-needed relief.

Here’s what you need to know.

How nerve blocks work

A nerve block is an injection that contains a local anesthetic or other medication. Dr. Ibrahim places the injection in a specific area of your spine, and getting a nerve block serves a couple of purposes.

First, we can use a nerve block to diagnose the source of your back pain. We can numb a specific nerve or group of nerves to see if your pain level decreases. Doing this helps us identify the specific nerve or nerves that are causing your pain, which we can then target with more specific treatment if needed.

Second, nerve blocks stop pain signals from traveling to your brain. Many people find that a nerve block is an effective treatment for their back pain, because the medication effectively numbs or blocks the sensation of pain.

There are a few different types of nerve blocks that we use to pinpoint the source of back pain:

Facet joint nerve block

Facet joint nerve blocks diagnose pain that is coming from the facet joints in your spine. These joints are located between your vertebrae and allow for movement and stability in your spine. Dr. Ibrahim may use a facet joint nerve block to determine if your pain is coming from facet joints, which can then be treated with a facet joint injection.

Medial branch nerve block

Another type of nerve block is a medial branch block. This procedure involves injecting a local anesthetic into your medial branch nerves, which are located next to (but not in) your facet joints. Dr. Ibrahim may use a medial branch block to determine if your pain is coming from your facet joints, and which specific facet joint is causing your pain.

Selective nerve root block

A more advanced nerve block that Dr. Ibrahim may use to pinpoint the source of your back pain is a selective nerve root block. This procedure involves injecting a local anesthetic into a specific nerve root in the spine. Dr. Ibrahim uses selective nerve root blocks to diagnose pain that is coming from a specific nerve root due to a spinal condition, such as a herniated disc or spinal stenosis.

What to expect when you get a nerve block

A nerve block can be an effective way to pinpoint and treat back pain, but the procedure may not be right for everyone. Dr. Ibrahim and our team start with a comprehensive pain analysis, where we do a physical exam, review your medical history, and ask questions about your symptoms.

We may start by recommending conservative treatments for your back pain, like rest, physical therapy, or oral pain medication. If conservative care isn’t enough to manage your symptoms, you could be a good candidate for a nerve block.

We typically perform nerve blocks in our clinic. Before your procedure, we may ask you to fast for a certain period of time. After you arrive at the clinic, we may give you a sedative to help you relax.

Dr. Ibrahim administers the nerve block, and we monitor you for a short period of time before sending you home. Local anesthetic medication starts blocking pain right away. If you get a steroid injection, you can expect to notice pain relief within the next few days.

Be sure to attend your follow-up appointments, where you’ll discuss the results of treatment with Dr. Ibrahim. Depending on your needs, he may recommend follow-up injections or a more targeted treatment plan to manage your pain.

If you're living with back pain, it's time to consult with a pain management specialist. Call our office at 609-757-9860 or contact us online to find out if a nerve block could be a good option for you.