An intercostal block, or intercostal nerve injection, is a medical technique designed to minimize pain in the chest, flank, or back, which can be attributed to scarring, disease, or injury. Intercostal nerves travel between the spine and underneath the ribs and chest wall. When an individual experiences chronic and localized discomfort in the chest region, these nerves are sometimes responsible for the transmission of signals that are interpreted as pain. Candidates for this procedure may include individuals who suffer complications from shingles, post-operative scarring, or injuries to the chest wall or ribs.
Patients are commonly positioned on their side for this procedure, allowing easy access to the ribs. The clinician will initially administer a local anesthetic near the primary injection site to minimize any discomfort. When patients are comfortable, a thin needle is inserted between two ribs, where the intercostal nerve is located. When the physician is satisfied with the needle placement, anesthetic agents, steroid medication, or a mixture of the drugs are then injected. The procedure itself takes a few minutes, with time afterwards for patient rest. When Valium is taken, a friend or family member must provide transportation, and heavy foods should be avoided.
Many individuals who undergo this procedure experience immediate pain relief that lasts for several hours or days. The soreness and pain often return temporarily, but commonly subside over the next several days or weeks. This often occurs due to the injected steroid medications, which work slowly, and allow the effected areas to heal with greater ease and comfort. Other patients might experience partial relief, or temporary relief, necessitating further clinical assessment, or additional intercostal injections.