Lumbar sympathetic nerve block — overview and purpose

A lumbar sympathetic nerve block can serve to diagnose and treat pain in the lower back. Lower back pain can be caused by several lumbar spine conditions or neurological conditions. Undergoing a sympathetic nerve block can help physicians determine the cause of your pain and the best treatment option for you to find pain relief.

If you are suffering from chronic lower back pain, you understand the need to find treatment that is effective and long-lasting. Patients with chronic lower back pain often experience difficulty standing and walking for extended periods of time, as well as bending and lifting things. In some severe cases of pain, a person might be prevented from completing normal daily tasks.

At Laser Spine Institute, we understand the pain and frustration you experience daily because of your chronic back pain. Our care team is here to help you find a lasting solution for your pain so you can get back to doing the things you love. As you continue to research your chronic back pain, we encourage you to reach out to us with your questions.

Purpose of lumbar sympathetic nerve block

A lumbar sympathetic nerve block is an injection of local anesthetic in the lumbar spine to determine the source of pain in the lower back and sometimes leg and foot. The sympathetic nerves are located in the lumbar spine (lower back) and are located on either side of the spine. These nerves are responsible for controlling basic functions, like temperature control and blood flow, but sometimes the double as pain transponders, sending pain signals to the related extremity, i.e., the leg or foot on the corresponding side.

During a lumbar sympathetic nerve block, local anesthetic will be injected into the sympathetic nerve on the painful side. If the pain reduces, the physician will know that your pain is caused by something impacting your sympathetic nerve. There are so many causes of lumbar pain that this process can help physicians determine the source of your pain and move more efficiently to find a solution for your pain relief.

What to expect during your lumbar sympathetic nerve block

This procedure will take anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes to complete. You will lie on your stomach and be monitored by EKG, blood pressure and oxygen machines. The skin on your back will be cleaned with antiseptic before the needle is inserted. Most doctors will use a very thin needle to insert local anesthetic into the skin and deeper tissue before the actual needle for the nerve block is inserted. You might feel some slight pain or discomfort during the actual nerve block process, because the needle has to reach to the spine.

The local anesthetic should wear off in an hour or so. If you are using lumbar sympathetic nerve block as a treatment method for lower back pain, you might undergo a series of several nerve block injections to find lasting relief from your pain. Your physician will determine the amount of injections you need based on your body’s response to the first nerve block.

If you have questions about additional treatment options available for patients with chronic lower back pain, contact our care team. We’ve helped over 50,000 patients find relief from neck and back pain, and we are confident that we can help you find pain relief so you can return to your normal activities.