What is a Sciatic Nerve Block?

Sciatic nerve blocks explained by Denver, Golden, Aurora, Boulder, Broomfield, Jefferson, and Littleton Colorado’s top pain doctors

Sciatic NerveA sciatic nerve block is a treatment approach for individuals who are experiencing debilitating and intense sciatic nerve pain that has not been resolved by traditional methods of pain management. The purpose of this type of nerve block is to hinder the transmission of pain signals from the spinal cord to the buttocks and lower limbs, which leads to the elimination or dramatic reduction of sciatic pain.

The body contains numerous amounts of nerves and the largest is the sciatic nerve. It extends from the pelvis to the buttocks and continues down the back of both legs. The lower limbs depend on this nerve for motor control and sensory information that is transferred from the spinal cord to the legs. When someone suffers from lower back pain, muscle weakness, cramping, numbness, tingling or burning sensations, or pain in the lower limbs, it is usually associated with the compression of the numerous nerve bundles contained within the sciatic nerve.

A physician may recommend at-home treatments such as hot or cold compresses, specific exercises, or even over-the-counter pain medications. In many cases, sciatic nerve pain is resolved after a few weeks of applying home remedies. Results may even be felt within a few days with these treatments. However, when relief is not experienced after an extended period, a sciatic nerve block may be recommended.

How is a Sciatic Nerve Block Performed?

Procedure PreperationA sciatic nerve block is a minimally invasive, non-surgical procedure. Anesthesia is administered to the nerve bundle of the sciatic nerve, which blocks the transfer of pain signals to the brain and spinal cord. Physicians have the advantage of using several methods to deliver anesthesia to the sciatic nerve bundle due to its large size. The subgluteal approach, posterior popliteal approach, the midfemoral approach, and the lateral popliteal approach are a few of the ways that physicians are able to pinpoint the sciatic nerve.

No matter what procedure is used, the patient has to be given local anesthesia. Prior to injecting the medication, a contrast dye is injected to ensure proper needle placement in the targeted area. The physician will then use a fluoroscope (X-ray) to guide the insertion of the needle. After the correct placement is confirmed, only the regions where large amounts of inflammation were observed will be injected with steroids. This limits the patient’s exposure to the steroids.

For about one to two hours after the brief procedure, the patient is monitored in case side effects develop. Most patients experience pain relief that is almost immediate.

Conditions Related To Sciatic Nerve Blocks

SciaticaThe sciatic nerve block is typically recommended as a treatment method for persistent sciatic nerve pain. Many people have suffered from trauma due to falls, vehicular accidents, or other conditions that have caused a serious injury or back strain. This makes diagnosing sciatic nerve pain difficult.

However, sciatic nerve damage is not only caused by the occurrence of a traumatic event. There are a number of factors associated with the risk of developing problems with the sciatic nerve such as genetics, age, diabetes, occupation, and the level of physical activity.

Clinical research has shown that the sciatic nerve block is effective at relieving and reducing sciatic nerve pain in the lower body. However, physicians typically recommend a trial period involving different home remedies before a nerve block is suggested. If a patient continuously reports that traditional methods are ineffective, a sciatic nerve block may be the optimal form of treatment. Furthermore, this method may also be beneficial for individuals who experienced harmful side effects after taking pain medication.

Conclusion

A sciatic nerve block is a non-surgical treatment that is minimally invasive. It generally provides significant pain relief for individuals who are experiencing persistent sciatic nerve pain. This treatment approach is especially helpful for patients whose pain did not decrease after they used traditional methods such as pain relievers. The risks associated with this nerve block are minimal and it provides almost immediate pain relief. Furthermore, if the initial nerve block only slightly reduces a patient’s pain, the procedure can be repeated until the desired effect is achieved.

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References

  1. Chen L, Wang Q, Shi K, Liu F, Liu L, Ni J, Fang X, Xu X. The effects of lidocaine used in sciatic nerve on the pharmacodynamics and pharmacokinetics of ropivacaine in sciatic nerve combined with lumbar plexus blockade: a double-blind, randomized study. Basic Clin Pharmacol Toxicol. 2013;112(3):203-8.
  2. Cuvillon P, Reubrecht V, Zoric L, Lemoine L, Belin M, Ducombs O, Birenbaum A, Riou B, Langeron O. Comparison of subgluteal sciatic nerve block duration in type 2 diabetic and non-diabetic patients. Br J Anesth. 2013;110(5):823-30.
  3. Luo D, Wang X, He J. A comparison between acute pressure block of the sciatic nerve and acupressure: Methodology, analgesia, and mechanism involved. J Pain Research. 2013;6:589-593.
  4. Ponde V, Desai AP, Shah D. Comparison of success rate of ultrasound-guided sciatic and femoral nerve block and neurostimulation in children with arthrogryposis multiplex congenita: a randomized clinical trial. Paediatr Anaesth. 2013;23(1):74-8.
  5. Sala-Blanch X, de Riva N, Carrera A, López AM, Prats A, Hadzic A. Ultrasound-guided popliteal sciatic block with a single injection at the sciatic division results in faster block onset than the classical nerve stimulator technique. Anesth Analg. 2012;114(5):1121-7.
  6. Seidel R, Natge U, Schulz J. Distal sciatic nerve blocks: randomized comparison of nerve stimulation and ultrasound guided intraepineural block. Anaesthesist. 2013;62(3):183-88,190-2.
  7. Tammam TF. Ultrasound-guided infragluteal sciatic nerve block: A comparison between four different techniques. Acta Anaesthesiol Scand. 2013;57(2):243-8.