Opioid medications provide powerful relief for people with acute and chronic pain — but unfortunately, they also come with many potential side effects, including increased risks of addiction and abuse. Even very brief courses of opioid medications can cause gastrointestinal side effects, including upset stomach or constipation.
As a leading pain management specialist in Birmingham, Alabama, Victor Mendoza, MD, offers tailored pain relief therapies for patients at Vulcan Pain Management, including nerve blocks for neck pain, back pain, and joint pain. Here’s how to decide if a nerve block could help relieve your chronic pain symptoms.
Why we feel pain
Most know that pain involves our nerves, but our understanding stops there. Understanding how pain “happens” can help decide when a nerve block can help and when another type of non-surgical pain management could be a better choice.
Pain signals begin at special pain-receptor nerve cells called nociceptors. When these cells are stimulated by pressure, chemicals, or other triggers, they send chemical messengers, called neurotransmitters, along nerve pathways to your brain. When your brain receives those messengers, it “processes” and interprets them, then responds. Your brain may decide to:
- Increase or decrease the level of pain at the site
- Trigger the release of natural painkillers called endorphins
- Stimulate the immune system or other injury-fighting processes
Different people process pain in different ways, which helps explain why some people seem to feel pain more keenly than others.
How nerve blocks work
Nerve blocks work by targeting that pain pathway. Specifically, a nerve block interferes with the transmission of pain, “turning off” nerve receptor cells and preventing those cells from sending pain signals to your brain.
Nerve blocks are performed right in our office using state-of-the-art techniques to ensure precise placement of the medication. Afterward, the injection site might feel sore, but there’s no downtime.
The nerve blocks Dr. Mendoza uses incorporate both a pain-relieving anesthetic and an inflammation-fighting corticosteroid. Once the solution is injected, the anesthetic provides immediate pain relief, while the corticosteroid works on providing long-term improvement in your symptoms.
When nerve blocks are used
Dr. Bennett recommends nerve blocks as part of a conservative treatment approach that includes oral medicines for pain and inflammation, physical therapy, and activity modification. When those treatments aren’t providing enough relief, nerve blocks might be a good next step.
Nerve blocks can be used for many types of pain, including pain associated with joints. Dr. Bennett uses them for pain in the neck, back, shoulder, and other areas. He can also use them to manage some types of headaches.
Nerve blocks can be a great alternative to opioid medications, providing long-term pain relief without the side effects or risks associated with opioids, especially when they’re used for long periods. Nerve blocks can also be combined with other therapies, including physical therapy.
Don’t let pain control your life
Nerve blocks are just one pain treatment option available at Vulcan Pain Management. To learn more about Dr. Mendoza's patient-centered approach to pain management — and how he can customize a plan for you — call 205-258-7246 or book an appointment online today.