Nerve blocks inhibit pain and different kinds are used for different reasons, including diagnosis, pain control, prognosis for further treatments, an alternative to surgery and to prevent subsequent pain, says WebMD. A nerve block involves the injection of medication into a group of nerves in order to block their transmissions.
A diagnostic nerve block uses an anesthetic with a known duration in order to locate the source of a patient's pain, notes WebMD. Nerve blocks are used as therapy for acutely painful conditions. When more-permanent procedures such as surgery are being considered, a nerve block may be used to help determine how effective they might be. Sometimes a nerve block is used as an alternative to surgery. Some procedures can cause complications such as phantom limb pain, and in these cases a proactive nerve block prevents subsequent pain.
There are many different nerve blocks used on various parts of the body, explains WebMD. Damage to the sympathetic nerve chain, which runs the length of the spine and controls some involuntary body functions, is sometimes diagnosed with the aid of a nerve block. A stellate ganglion block is a particular type of sympathetic block used to diagnose pain in the neck, arms, chest and head. Another type of diagnostic spinal nerve block is called a facet joint block. Facet joints are located on the back of the spine, and they help restrict and guide the spine's movement.