Sympathetic Block

A sympathetic block is an advanced medical technique designed to lesson neural pain or uncomfortable symptoms that are the result of injury, dysfunction, or illness.  The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for many automatic bodily functions, such as sweating, heart rate, digestion, and blood pressure.  A large number of sympathetic nerves are located in clusters near both sides of the spinal column of the back and neck.  When the sympathetic nervous system is over-stimulated and not functioning properly, some individuals will experience burning, pain, swelling, and skin changes.  In response, physicians might perform a special injection directly into the areas responsible for an individual’s condition.  Candidates for this procedure include patients with shingles, sympathetic reflex dystrophy, and complex regional pain syndrome.

Patients lay on their stomach during the procedure, allowing for easy access to the back and neck region.  Initially, patients will be given a local anesthetic to decrease the discomfort associated with the primary injection.  Valium is also offered for sedation and relaxation.  When the patient is comfortable, the physician will insert a thin needle into specific areas near the spinal column.  A live X-ray device, or fluoroscopy machine, is used during this process to assist the clinician with proper syringe placement.  When the doctor is satisfied with the needle’s position, anesthetic agents are injected directly into the target areas.  The procedure can take between 10 and 20 minutes, with time afterwards for rest and observation.

Patients who take Valium should eat lightly and are required to have a friend or relative provide transportation.  Individuals should expect some level of symptom relief after the initial injection, but will require several more treatments to reach maximum comfort.  If the pain does not subside after the initial treatment, the clinician might consider other options.