Finding the right treatment for your fibromyalgia pain can be a difficult journey. Many sufferers of fibromyalgia syndrome spend years trying to fight the right treatment to help eliminate their pain symptoms. Nerve blocks are sometimes highly effective in providing temporary relief for muscle and joint pain caused by fibromyalgia. Nerve blocks prevent pain signals from being sent and received by the brain, thereby eliminating pain, and increasing range of motion and mobility. Though not a first line treatment for fibromyalgia, nerve blocks can often be a integral part of a fibromyalgia treatment regimen.
What are Nerve Blocks?
Nerve blocks, sometimes referred to as nerve root blocks, are injections that help to stop regional pain in your body. Nerve blocks are injections inside or around a group of nerve cells. They provide immediate relief from pain and discomfort caused by a variety of injuries and illnesses. One of the most commonly-used nerve blocks is the epidural, frequently given during childbirth or for lower back pain.
How Do Nerve Blocks Work?
Nerve blocks work by preventing pain signals from traveling to the brain. Your body contains a series of nerves that are linked together into nerve pathways, called chains. These nerve chains send signals from your body to your brain to communicate sensations. When you feel pain, your body sends a signal to your brain, which then interprets the signal and causes you to experience discomfort. Nerve blocks work to stop the brain from receiving these pain signals, preventing any sensation of pain.
What Medications are Used in Nerve Blocks?
Nerve blocks typically use anesthetic medications to numb a particular nerve or chain of nerves. Sometimes, other medications are combined with the anesthetic to provide relief for certain types of pain. These include:
- opioids or narcotics
What Benefits Do Nerve Blocks Offer?
Nerve blocks offer numerous benefits to pain sufferers. Benefits include:
- immediate pain relief
- the desensitization of nerves (which can provide future pain relief)
- relief from inflammation
Nerve Blocks and Fibromyalgia
Nerve blocks can often be very helpful in managing fibromyalgia pain and other fibromyalgia symptoms. Benefits for fibromyalgia patients include:
- increased range of motion
- reduced joint pain
- reduced muscle pain
- easier physical therapy
Types of Nerve Blocks
There are a number of different types of nerve blocks. Depending upon the location of your pain, your health care provider may choose to administer a certain type of nerve block.
- Spinal Injections: Spinal injections are often used to reduce lower back or leg pain. Frequently used for back injuries or during pregnancies, they are also referred to as an epidural. During the spinal block, an anesthesiologist injects anesthetic into your spine to provide relief.
- Peripheral Nerve Blocks: Peripheral nerve blocks numb the nerves outside of your spinal cord. These nerves often become irritated due to injury, scar tissue, and illness. Peripheral nerve blocks are commonly used for head, scalp, chest, and pelvic pain.
The Nerve Block Procedure
Nerve blocks are performed by anesthesiologists, who are trained in the administration of anesthetic drugs. Performed on an outpatient basis at your local clinic or hospital, nerve blocks typically take between 30 and 45 minutes. Your anesthesiologist will first numb the area around the injection site with a topical anesthetic. Next, a needle will be inserted into the site. An anesthetic, steroids, or other type of medication will be injected into the site. Your health care provider will then bandage the area.
After the Nerve Block
The nerve block should begin to work immediately. You may feel slight numbness in your extremities while the medication begins to take action. It is advised that you have someone you know take you home after the procedure.
Side Effects of Nerve Blocks
Though rare, nerve blocks have been known to cause some side effects and can sometimes result in serious health complications. Possible side effects include:
- rash around the injection site
- pain around the injection site
- loss of sensation
- nerve damage
Things to Keep In Mind
It is important to keep in mind that nerve blocks will not cure your fibromyalgia pain. They only provide temporary relief from joint and muscle pain. Typical nerve blocks last for a couple of months, though it depends upon the medication and procedures involved. Nerve blocks however can be effective therapy when combined with a treatment program of physical therapy, exercise, and other fibromyalgia medications.