An epidural nerve block is an injection of a corticosteroid into the epidural part of the spine. This is the area surrounding the spinal cord, including the nerves. Epidural nerve blocks are used to treat many different types of issues, including herniated disks, spinal stenosis, and CRPS. Epidural nerve blocks work for use in treatment of these issues by reducing the inflammation in the nerves and tissue. Reducing the inflammation can sometimes decrease the pain and irritation.
Treating CRPS with an Epidural Nerve Block
An epidural nerve block is typically only an effective treatment for CRPS if it is performed early enough in the stages of the disease. If an epidural nerve block is administered and it works, the physician will typically schedule the next session. If there is no immediate result from the epidural injection, it usually signifies that the disease has advanced too far for this form of treatment to be effective.
Every patient responds differently to administration of an epidural nerve block. Some patients will only need a few sessions to alleviate the CRPS pain, while others may require up to ten. In some cases, the first few injections will show positive results, and then the effectiveness of the treatment will come to an end. Still other patients respond very positively to the treatment, and CRPS goes into remission after a few epidural nerve block injections.
Administering an Epidural Nerve Block
A physician will numb the injection site with some form of local anesthetic, and then insert the epidural needle. The epidural needle is going through skin and into deeper tissue, so even with anesthetic there is sometimes discomfort. The injection site used for insertion of the epidural needle is typically the stellate ganglion, which is at the level of the seventh cervical vertebrae, at the base of the neck. The stellate ganglion is part of the sympathetic nervous system, and is connected to nerves in the arms, hands, and face.
The injection itself will only take a few minutes, but physicians typically schedule a forty-five minute period after the injection so that they can observe the patient. If the epidural nerve block has been successful, patients will typically experience warmth in their arms and a decrease of pain immediately following the injection. Patients also commonly experience a hoarse voice, lump in the throat, nasal congestion, and sometimes a headache. It is recommended that patients get a ride home after the
epidural nerve block, and stay away from strenuous activity for the rest of the day.
Possible Side Effects of Epidural Nerve Block Treatment
Epidural nerve block treatment is considered to be a safe procedure, and severe side effects are not common. The most common side effect of an epidural nerve block is pain at the site of the injection that lasts for a day or so. Other side effects are typically the result of improper sterilization or lack of experience on the part of the physician.
Side effects can include:
• Spread of medication into blood vessels or organs surrounding site
• Spinal complications
• Nerve complications
Advantages of Epidural Nerve Block Treatment
An epidural nerve block treatment is preferable to more invasive forms of treatment for CRPS, such as surgery. Surgery will take recovery time and may result in prolonged pain, while patients can typically resume work and other activities the day following an epidural nerve block injection. Most other forms of drug therapy for CRPS can take time to show results, and may not provide instant pain relief. Epidural nerve block treatment can provide fast relief for patients that have been suffering from the pain of CRPS, and in some cases begin the road to remission.
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