Sympathetic Blocks

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Sympathetic Blocks

A lumbar sympathetic block is a procedure that can either treat or help diagnose pain associated with the sympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system is one of two systems, along with the parasympathetic system, that controls the autonomic nervous system, which is what controls our automatic bodily functions. The sympathetic system typically controls the “flight-or-fight” response, including things like blood flow/pressure and heart rate; while the parasympathetic system controls the “rest-and-digest” functions, such as digestive and sexual function. Sometimes, the sympathetic nerves in the spine will transmit pain signals to the brain. Your doctor may perform a lumbar sympathetic block to determine the source of your pain, as well as to treat a variety of conditions, including complex regional pain syndrome of the lower limbs, phantom limb pain, vascular pains, or pain caused by infections such as shingles.


This procedure is a simple nerve block performed in approximately 15 minutes. While you lie on your stomach, the doctor first numbs the area, then uses x-rays to guide the needle to the lumbar sympathetic area of the spine. The doctor will then inject dye, followed by an anesthetic solution around the nerves. You may feel relief immediately, or it may come in the next couple of days. After your doctor observes you for any side effects, you are free to leave, though you should arrange a ride to and from the appointment.

After your block, it is normal to feel warmth in the lower extremities. This should only last a few hours and indicates an adequate block of the lumbar sympathetic system. Much like other nerve block procedures, this is a proven, safe operation with few risks, including bleeding, infection, and nerve damage. The lumbar sympathetic block is one of many tools our doctors can utilize to diagnose or treat your pain. If you are suffering from pain, come to us for help and our team of double board-certified doctors will work to find the source of your pain and treat it effectively and efficiently.


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