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Cervical Sympathetic Nerve Block
If you struggle with chronic pain, the highly skilled team at the Spine Institute of North America may recommend a cervical (Stellate) sympathetic plexus nerve block injection to control your painful symptoms. This form of therapy uses targeted injections into your neck or back to help with chronic pain caused by your body’s sympathetic nervous system.
Pain in your neck, spine, hands, arms and shoulders can all be caused by the sympathetic nerves. These nerves spread out from your spine and are responsible for many of your body’s involuntary functions, or those you have no control over, such as:
- Heart rate
- Blood flow
- Controlling your blood vessels
- Pupil dilation
- Moving food through intestines
However, sympathetic nerves also carry pain signals.
A sympathetic nerve block can be used both as a diagnostic tool and to treat the pain which involves the sympathetic nervous system. When you meet with one of our specialists, they may recommend a cervical sympathetic nerve block to treat conditions such as complex regional pain syndrome and other types of chronic back pain.
A Cervical (Stemtellaue) Sympathetic Plexus Nerve Block Injection Can Help Us Diagnose Your Neck Pain
If you are experiencing pain in your neck, shoulders, or arms, our spinal doctors may recommend a cervical sympathetic nerve block injection as a means of pinpointing from where your pain is originating. This specific kind of nerve block can tell our doctors whether or not your sympathetic nerves are the cause of the pain you are experiencing.
The Cervical Sympathetic Nerve Block Procedure
The location of your pain determines where your physician will inject the cervical sympathetic nerve block. Sympathetic nerves are found in thick networks, called ganglions, outside the spinal area. If you’re experiencing pain in your upper back, you may receive an injection in your neck area. However, pain experienced in your lower back may best be treated with a lumbar sympathetic block.
This is how a cervical sympathetic nerve block procedure works:
- Prior to the procedure, you are given an IV through which you receive fluids or, if needed, a mild sedative to help you relax
- Your skin will be cleansed and numbed
- Using advanced X-ray imaging called fluoroscopy, your doctor will guide the placement of the needle before injecting a local anesthetic near the ganglions
- If it is the sympathetic nerves causing your chronic pain, you may experience temporary pain relief
Once your doctor has determined if the cervical sympathetic nerve block procedure was successful, they may recommend continued treatment for long-term pain relief. This could involve a few injections administered every one to two weeks.
Using Cervical Sympathetic Nerve Blocks to Treat Complex Regional Pain Syndrome
Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a chronic pain condition that often causes painful symptoms in the arm or leg. CRPS generally develops after an injury. However, it can also occur following surgery, a stroke or a heart attack. The main symptom patients experience is intense pain that gets worse rather than better over time and seems disproportionate to the severity of the injury.
While the cause of complex regional pain syndrome is not fully understood, the sympathetic nervous system has been implicated as one of the potential sources of CRPS pain.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for CRPS. However, cervical sympathetic nerve blocks are a common treatment option that brings many patients relief from their painful symptoms. Cervical sympathetic nerve blocks may benefit patients with complex regional pain syndrome in a number of different ways:
- Dramatic improvements in their overall condition
- Resolution of pain, symptoms and signs of the condition
- Ability to wean from pain medications
- Return to normal activities without significant limitations
- Ability to resume full-time employment
Are You a Good Candidate for a Cervical Sympathetic Nerve Block Injection?
To see if you are a good candidate for a cervical sympathetic nerve block injection, take our pain evaluation questionnaire and someone from our office will follow-up with you as soon as possible.
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