The lumbar sympathetic nerves in your lower back can cause pain and inflammation because of injuries and illnesses.
Pain the lower back can make living a regular, productive life difficult or impossible. When you cannot find relief from the discomfort by taking over-the-counter pain medications, you might want to undergo a medical procedure that can provide longer lasting relief.
You can experience meaningful and longer lasting pain relief by undergoing a lumbar sympathetic block. This outpatient procedure can be more effective than taking over-the-counter or prescription pain relievers.
What is a Lumbar Sympathetic Block?
A lumbar sympathetic block is an injection of pain medications and steroids that are placed in the sympathetic nerves in the lower back. The sympathetic nerves are found on either side of the spine in the lower back. They regulate blood flow and also carry pain information from the peripheral nerves to the spinal cord. The injections effectively block the nerves that run from the leg on the same side of the spine where they are given.
Lumbar sympathetic blocks are administered for a number of reasons like:
- Reducing pain and swelling
- Reversing a change in color
- Eliminating sweating
- Improving mobility
- Addressing other unusual changes in the lower extremities
They also are given to address health conditions like:
- Reflex sympathetic dystrophy
- Sympathetic maintained pain
- Complex regional pain syndrome
- Herpes zoster or shingles
- Peripheral vascular disease
It takes around 30 minutes for the injections to be given. The injections contain medications like a local anesthetic, steroids, clonidine, and epinephrine.
How is a Lumbar Sympathetic Block Performed?
Before the procedure starts, you will be given local anesthesia to help you relax through an IV. After you are sedated, your doctor will place you on your back on an x-ray table. The x-ray will be used during the procedure to guide the doctor in where to place the pain medications, dye, and steroids.
After the injections are administered, you should not feel any discomfort for the first few hours. You may only notice pain once the local anesthetic wears off. The pain medication that has been injected into the lumbar sympathetic nerves can take a few hours or possibly even a day or two to take effect.
Relief from the lumbar sympathetic block can last for a few weeks to a few months. You may need more than one injection before you experience meaningful pain relief.
Lumbar Sympathetic Block Recovery
You will be allowed to go home to recuperate a few hours after your procedure is finished. For the first few days, you should do very little but rest. You should only resume your normal activities when advised to do so by your doctor.
You also should avoid activities like heavy lifting and straining to avoid harming your back or causing bleeding where the injections were given. You can take a shower and eat a regular diet without restrictions after a lumbar sympathetic block.