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Relieve back pain with Universal Care Specialty Center.

More than 80 percent of the population experiences back pain at one time or another. The majority of that pain is felt in or originated from the lower back.

One of the minimally invasive techniques that may provide relief is a lumbar sympathetic block. The injection targets the affected area of the spine in a way that’s more direct than what can be achieved with medication and many other common non-surgical remedies.

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How Does a Lumbar Sympathetic Block Work?

A lumbar sympathetic block targets the sympathetic nerves that are located on both sides of your spine. These are the nerves that help control involuntary functions of the body and trigger responses within blood vessels. The injection works by preventing (“blocking”) these nerves from transmitting pain signals to the brain. Lumbar sympathetic blocks are sometimes performed for diagnostic purposes, especially if the source of lower back or radiating nerve pain cannot be clearly determined.

What Happens During the Procedure?

You will be laying on an x-ray table on your stomach during the procedure. You will be given a local anesthetic that will numb the immediate area. If the block is being done for therapeutic purposes, a steroid medication is typically included in the injection. Such medication can reduce any swelling, or inflammation, that may be placing additional pressure on the sympathetic nerves.

Under the guidance of special live x-ray, the doctor will direct the needle to the correct location around the sympathetic nerves in your lower back. A dye is usually injected to confirm that the medication used in the nerve block is reaching the correct spot.

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Why Consider a Lumbar Sympathetic Block?

A lumbar sympathetic block may be recommended if you have lower back pain that’s not sufficiently managed with other pain management techniques. Injections may also be recommended to ease discomfort experienced in buttocks, thighs, or legs, as is common if the sciatic nerve is affected. The longest single nerve in the body and a common source of radiating pain, the sciatic nerve originates in the lower back and extends to the legs. Lumbar sympathetic blocks may also ease pain from:

  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Reflex sympathetic dystrophy, a rare disorder affecting the sympathetic nervous system
  • Vascular insufficiency
  • Herpes zoster (“shingles”) infections affecting the legs

What Results Can You Expect?

You may experience immediate relief due to the numbing effects of the anesthesia. It may take a week or two before the full effects of the steroid medication are noticed. The entire procedure can usually be completed in under 30 minutes. You may be observed for a short period after receiving a lumbar sympathetic block, although you will be able to go home the same day since it’s an outpatient procedure.

While the anesthetic is still working, you may feel some temporary warmth or other sensations after receiving a lumbar sympathetic block. Complication risks are low. Avoid strenuous activities for a day before returning to your normal routine. Lumbar sympathetic blocks do not usually affect other medications you may be taking for other conditions. Your doctor will provide any other instructions specific to your situation.