Nerve Block for Chronic Pain

Chronic pain may have you looking for better pain management. A temporary or permanent nerve block can provide long-term relief for chronic pain.

A nerve block is a procedure that disrupts nerve activity and can be used to diagnose or treat neuropathic pain or pain caused by nerve dysfunction or damage. Nerve blocks involve injecting chemicals or anesthesia to a painful area or by cutting or damaging a nerve. A common nerve block is a novocaine during dental work.


Neurolytic blocks and surgical nerve blocks are permanent because they damage or cut the nerve. These are only used in severe cases of chronic pain such as cancer pain or complex regional pain syndrome. A neurolytic block uses alcohol, phenol or a thermal agent to treat chronic pain and causes damage to the nerve pathway. A surgical block removes or damages certain areas of the nerve being treated. These blocks are essentially permanent and reserved for severe cases only.

Even a permanent nerve block may only last a few weeks because nerves can regrow or repair themselves. The pain will return.


Surgical nerve blocks include:

  • Sympathetic blockade
  • Neurectomy – a damaged peripheral nerve is surgically destroyed
  • Rhizotomy – nerve root is destroyed

General nerve blocks have less side effects than most pain medications

Some uses of  nerve blocks include:

  • labor and delivery
  • surgical pain
  • cancer pain
  • arthritis pain
  • lumbar back pain and sciatica
  • migraine headaches
  • chronic regional pain syndrome
  • herniated disk pain
  • phantom pain


Nerve blocks are safe but there are always risks with any medical procedure. General nerve blocks have fewer side effects than most pain medications. A slight miscalculation can have devastating effects like paralysis.


Risks and side effects include:

  • injection site tenderness
  • infection
  • bruising
  • damage to nerves
  • Horner’s Syndrome
  • blocked the wrong nerve
  • increased blood sugars
  • rash and itching
  • weight gain
  • Bleeding
  • Death (in rare cases)



The blocked area can remain numb or weak for 24 hours. You won’t be able to tell if you are having pain. No heat or cold should be applied to the site. The doctor should be notified if the numbness lasts longer than 24 hours. Care should be taken to prevent injury to the site because of lack of sensation.