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Chronic pain is defined as any pain lasting more than 3 months and can range in intensity from mild to severe. This debilitating condition affects approximately one in every five Canadians, or a total of six million people suffering from it on a daily basis, reaching epidemic proportions. Since chronic pain is psychologically difficult to endure, it can often trigger anxiety and depression. Moreover, chronic pain is often associated with other health problems, including fatigue, sleep disturbance, decreased appetite, and mood changes.

What are the causes of chronic pain?

Chronic pain has many causes, which include degenerative diseases such as arthritis, car accidents, cancer, and disorders which produce neuropathic pain, which is a type of pain caused by malfunctioning of the nervous system. Typically, pain resolve after the physical injury heals. In contrast, chronic pain can last for months and even years after healing of the injury. In fact, chronic pain even occurs when there’s no known trigger for the pain. Essentially, chronic pain can change the way neurons (nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord) send, receive and process sensory information, so that they become hypersensitive to pain messages.

What is a nerve block?

A nerve block is an injection used to decrease inflammation or “interrupt” a pain signal along a specific nerve or bundle of nerves. Essentially, this is a method of producing anesthesia and produces a loss of feeling to prevent or control pain sensation. Nerve blocks are an effective way of treating chronic pain, and can be performed on various nerves in many parts of the body, depending on the cause of the pain. Moreover, a nerve block can be used as a form of pain relief on its own, or combined with another type of pain treatment.

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What are the different types of nerve blocks for chronic pain treatment?

There are different types of nerve block treatments, which depend on the cause of pain and the body region affected. Here are the most commonly used types of nerve blocks for treating chronic pain:

After having a nerve block procedure, you may notice some temporary numbness, soreness or irritation in the area. These effects are not permanent and will fade with time. Sometimes, nerve blocks can also cause some temporary swelling in the injected area, which can compress the nerve and requires time to subside. It is important to contact your doctor if you find that the side effects of your nerve block last longer than expected.

What are the risks of nerve blocks?

The only way to decide if the nerve block is for you is to talk to your physician and pain management specialist. There are some risks associated with nerve blocks, especially if the procedure is done incorrectly, and these include muscle paralysis, weakness, or feelings of numbness. In some rare cases, a nerve block may actually cause more nerve irritation and result in an increased feeling of pain. However, when performed by a skilled and licensed health practitioner, nerve blocks can successfully reduce chronic nerve pain.

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