A sympathetic nerve block is one of the most effective pain management tools available for some kinds of chronic and relentless pain.

A sympathetic nerve block is one of the most effective pain management tools available for some kinds of chronic and relentless pain. Justin Lo, MD in San Jose, California, offers this service to his clients because not only is it beneficial for pain control but it may reduce inflammation and improve color and mobility in the lower extremities at the same time. That's important for those with conditions like regional pain syndrome.

What is a sympathetic nerve block?

A sympathetic nerve block is injection therapy that targets the sympathetic nervous system. This is one of three divisions of the autonomic nervous system that regulates unconscious actions. The nerves that feed this system extend outward from the middle of the spinal cord.

When doing a sympathetic nerve block, Dr. Lo injects a local anesthetic in the sympathetic nerve tissue on either side of the spine. The inject "blocks" the nerves in the tissue.

What conditions respond to a sympathetic nerve block?

Dr. Lo evaluates each patient's pain separately and creates a care plan to help manage it. That may or may not include a sympathetic nerve block but it is a common treatment for conditions like:

  • Pain from blood vessels that spasm

  • Complex regional pain syndrome

  • Raynaud's syndrome

  • Chronic stomach pain

  • Excessive sweating

Essentially, Dr. Lo uses this method for issues affecting the lower extremities. The block can improve:

  • Pain

  • Swelling

  • Color

  • Sweating

  • Mobility

It doesn't work the same for each patient or condition, but sympathetic nerve blocks have a good success rate in general for the lower extremities.

How is the sympathetic nerve block done?

It's a fast and relatively painless procedure. Dr. Lo meets with each patient prior to the treatment. The goal is to access their overall health and pain problems. He wants to know what other medications the patient takes, even supplement therapy like vitamins and over-the-counter pain products.

When scheduling the treatment, he reviews the specific pre-procedure requirements. For example, in some situations, he may want you to fast prior to the injection. During the treatment, he uses imaging to find the right area for the block and numb that space before injecting it with an anesthetic solution.

What is the recovery time after a sympathetic nerve block?

This is a straightforward procedure with few side effects. Most patients rest the remaining part of the day and return to normal activities the following day. The treatment might open up opportunities for physical therapy and other more permanent treatment options, depending on the root cause of the pain.

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