Lumbar Sympathetic Block

Sympathetic Block being performed on the lumbar spine.

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome or CRPS that involves the nerves in your low back can lead to severe, burning pain in your foot or leg and as your condition worsens your symptoms can spread - moving from just one toe to your entire foot and leg, or even to the opposite limb.

However, a Lumbar Sympathetic Block can help you find relief, so that you can say goodbye to the burn and get back to the activities you love.

At Cahaba Pain and Spine Care, our Board Certified Pain Physicians specialize in Lumbar Sympathetic Blocks for patients living in chronic pain due to Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, also known as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD). Their expertise and compassion has already helped a multitude of patients suffering from CRPS find relief and could help you too.

So that you can determine if a Lumbar Sympathetic Block is right for you, we’ve put together answers to the most common questions patients have about the procedure, from how a block can help, to what to expect during and after your procedure.

What Is a Lumbar Sympathetic Block and How Can It Help Me?

Your sympathetic nerves are located along the front side of your spinal column. These nerves help make up your autonomic nervous system, and take part in regulating everything from neuropathic pain to sweating, body temperature, and more.

At times, even after your body has healed from an injury or surgery, your sympathetic nerves can continue to transmit pain, which is known as Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome. When this happens, you can experience severe burning pain, swelling, and changes in skin color, texture, and temperature.

A Lumbar Sympathetic Block can be used to reduce the symptoms of CRPS in your lower limbs. The injection involves a combination of an anesthetic (numbing) medication plus a corticosteroid (anti-inflammatory medication) which is injected near your spine to "block" the nerves.

What Can I Expect During the Procedure?

Prior to your Lumbar Sympathetic Block, an IV will be started, so that you can be given medications to help you relax and remain comfortable. You will then lie on your stomach on an x-ray table.

Your skin will be scrubbed with antimicrobial soap and alcohol and your doctor will give you an injection of numbing medication to minimize your discomfort. Next, your doctor will use x-ray guidance to insert a needle near the sympathetic nerves to be blocked, and the anesthetic and steroid medication is injected.

The entire procedure generally takes less than 30 minutes.

What Happens After My Block?

After your Lumbar Sympathetic Block, you will be moved to recovery where your vital signs and limb temperature will be monitored. You will usually need to remain in the recovery area for 30-45 minutes, when you will be discharged.

You’ll need to have a companion available to drive you home, since you may experience temporary numbness or weakness. You can resume driving as well as your normal activities the day after your procedure.

If the Lumbar Sympathetic Block reduces your pain and your relief remains in effect beyond the duration of the anesthetic, your doctor may prescribe a treatment plan including additional injections. If effective, your doctor may recommend a series of these blocks 1-2 weeks apart, which may help give you more long term pain relief.

What Are the Results?

Every patient responds differently to a Lumbar Sympathetic Block. While some patients experience immediate pain relief only to have their pain returns once the anesthetic wears off, others can have relief that lasts days or months. In general, the best, most lasting results are achieved through a series of injections, with pain relief lasting longer after each subsequent treatment.