This procedure is an injection that numbs branches of nerves in your lower back. It helps doctors find and treat a number of problems linked to these nerves. Usually, a series of injections is needed to treat a problem. The sympathetic nerves travel along both sides of your spine. They are associated with a wide range of functions that you don't consciously control. These include your circulation, digestion, and sweat production.
Is it right for me?
If you are experiencing back and/or leg pain caused by one of the following conditions, a lumbar sympathetic nerve block may be an option for you:
- Reflex sympathetic dystrophy
- Complex regional pain syndrome
- Herpes zoster infection (shingles) involving the legs
- Vascular insufficiency
- Peripheral neuropathy
What is the procedure like?
The physician inserts a needle and carefully guides it to the sympathetic nerves. The physician typically uses an x-ray device called a "fluoroscope." This shows a video image of the needle's position. Contrast dye may be injected to help confirm that the needle is placed correctly. Next, the physician injects medicine. It bathes the nerves and can numb the nerves and reduce inflammation. If these nerves have been a source of pain, the medicine can relieve it. The injection may also provide other benefits, depending on your needs.
What happens after the procedure?
When the procedure is complete, the needle is removed and the injection site is covered with a bandage. You will be monitored for a brief time before you are allowed to go home. After a lumbar sympathetic block, many people experience leg numbness or weakness. This is normal, and usually lasts for only a few hours. You may need to return for more injections in the future.