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How a Nerve Block Can Help Diagnose Your Pain

Usually, you know exactly why you’re experiencing pain. Whether you stubbed your toe, tripped and fell, or cut your finger, the source is obvious. But other times, the underlying cause isn’t so clear. And if nothing seems to abate it, you’re left with ongoing pain plus the frustration of trying to figure out why you have it.

Double-board-certified Dr. Raul Lopez and our team at the West Texas Pain Institute understand your frustration and want you to know that help is available. We use the most advanced diagnostic technology and treatments so we can get to the bottom of your aches and pains and get rid of them for good.

Why your nerves may be the cause of your pain

When it comes to pain, the best place to start is often with your nerves. Your body contains a complex network of nerves that helps you do everything you choose to do, like pet your dog or run a marathon, to things you don’t even realize you’re doing, like breathing and digesting food. 

They’re also key players in your body’s built-in communication system.

When you’re injured or have a condition that causes chronic pain, your nerves fire off signals to your brain and trigger a pain response. 

What’s a nerve block, and how can it help?

When you have unexplained pain that fits the profile of nerve compression or damage, we may begin your treatment plan with a nerve block. Nerve blocks are injections that contain a local anesthetic, which bathes your nerve endings in soothing medication that numbs them. 

We may also add a corticosteroid to the nerve block to reduce the inflammation around your nerves if necessary. For example, an epidural nerve block, which contains both medications, can be injected into the epidural space of your spine. This is the place where many of your nerves enter and exit the spinal column, and it’s common for tissues there to swell and compress nearby nerves if you’ve suffered a back injury.

Through a simple injection, we can deliver powerful medicine directly to the affected nerves. The anesthetic quickly stops the nerves from sending pain signals to your brain, and your pain subsides. 

We often recommend nerve blocks for conditions such as the following:

Nerve blocks can also be effective treatments for migraines, chronic regional pain syndrome, and lingering pain from conditions, such as a shingles infection.

But nerve blocks aren’t just a treatment method. There’s a specific type of nerve block that we use as a diagnostic tool. Here’s what you should know.

How we use nerve blocks to diagnose pain

Nerve blocks are temporary fixes. Once the medication wears off, the pain returns. In some cases, it may last long enough so that you can engage in your rehabilitation efforts more fully so you can heal the problem and resolve the pain naturally.

But when the source of your pain remains elusive, the nerve block serves as an excellent diagnostic tool. We inject the medication near the nerves we suspect are causing your symptoms, and if the injection works, we know exactly which nerves are causing the pain.

If the affected nerve is damaged, it may be best to decommission it with radiofrequency ablation, a minimally invasive procedure that uses gentle heat to “shut off” your malfunctioning nerve and stop the pain for good.

What you can expect from a nerve block procedure

Nerve blocks are simple, routine procedures that come with no side effects. We perform the injection in our office on an outpatient basis. It’s best to avoid taking any anti-inflammatory medications within a day of your injection, but you can eat and drink normally. 

We begin by sterilizing and numbing the injection site. When you’re ready, Dr. Lopez inserts the needle into the treatment area, guided by a special type of X-ray called fluoroscopy, and injects the medication. 

Then, we take you to the recovery area where we monitor you for any adverse reactions. Dr. Lopez asks you to take careful note of any changes in your symptoms, as it’s important to the ongoing task of diagnosing your condition.  

You need a friend or family member to drive you home as the numbing agents wear off. 

Are you ready to finally find out what’s causing your unexplained pain? Don’t hesitate to call our friendly staff or request an appointment online at our El Paso, Texas, office.

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