Stellate Ganglion Block (for CRPS and PTSD)

Stellate Ganglion Block being performed on a patient.

Living with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome or CRPS can be challenging. Not only does the burning pain it sends into your hands, arm, or shoulder make each day and every move harder, your symptoms can progress as time goes on – moving from a finger to your whole arm or even to the opposite limb.

However, a Stellate Ganglion Block can help stop the pain that is driving you crazy, so that you can enjoy your life again.

At Cahaba Pain and Spine Care, our Board Certified Pain Physicians specialize in Stellate Ganglion Blocks for patients living in chronic pain due to Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, also known as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD). Their expertise has helped thousands of patients move on from their lives after chronic pain and get back to the things they love.

So that you can determine if a Stellate Ganglion Block is right for you, we’re answering all of your questions about the procedure, from how the procedure can help, to what to expect during and after your block.

What Is a Stellate Ganglion Block and How Can It Help Me?

Your stellate ganglion makes up part of your sympathetic nervous system and is located in your neck. It sits to either side of your trachea, at the level of your seventh cervical vertebra (C7). Through its neurons, your stellate ganglion is connected to your central nervous system and helps regulate nerve pain, body temperature, and more.

Because of this function, Stellate Ganglion Blocks can be used to help alleviate the symptoms of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome that affect your upper extremities.

The procedure itself involves an injection of a combination of medications, including a corticosteroid to reduce inflammation and an anesthetic to combat pain, into stellate ganglion, which can improve symptoms in your head, neck, upper arm and upper chest. A Stellate Ganglion Block can even boost circulation and blood supply to your arm.

What Can I Expect During the Procedure?

Prior to your Stellate Ganglion Block, you will be given an IV, so that you can receive medications to help you relax and keep you comfortable throughout the procedure. You will then lie on your back with your head rotated slightly to the side, and your neck will be scrubbed with sterile soap.

Next, your doctor will inject a local anesthetic to minimize your discomfort. Once the numbing medication takes effect, your specialist will insert a small needle using x-ray or ultrasound guidance and carefully inject the corticosteroid/anesthetic combination.

The entire procedure generally takes less than 30 minutes.

What Happens After My Block?

Once your procedure is completed, you will be transferred to a recovery area where you will be closely monitored and then you’ll be allowed to go home. It is important that you have someone who can drive you home, since your doctor will be unable to perform your procedure if you don’t have a driver.

You’re able to return to your normal activities the day after your procedure, and once your voice returns to normal, you can sip water through a straw, working your way up to eating solid foods.

If the nerve block reduces your pain and remains in effect beyond the duration of the anesthetic, your doctor may prescribe a treatment plan including additional injections. Alternatively, depending on your specific response to the procedure and your doctor’s analysis of your condition, your pain management physician may also recommend a more permanent form of pain relief such as Radiofrequency Ablation.

What Are the Results?

While some patients experience immediate pain relief from a Stellate Ganglion Block, but have pain that returns a few hours later once the local anesthetic begins to wear off, other patients find long-term relief. The best effects are usually seen with a series of injection and relief generally lasts longer after each treatment.