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Injections for Back and Neck Pain

What are Injections for Pain?

Pain management specialists use injections as tools for both diagnosis and treatment when more conservative treatments, such as medication and physical therapy, do not provide relief from back and neck pain. During the procedure, a steroid and numbing agent is injected around or directly into the nerve. For diagnosis, these injections can help identify the source of pain. For treatment, they may help reduce swelling and stop pain signals from being transmitted to the brain. Injections might be used to help relieve pain from stellate, celiac plexus, or other conditions.

UTHealth Houston Neurosciences pain management specialist Dr. Hiral Patel and neurosurgeon Dr. Krish Vigneswaran discuss the causes of lower back pain and different medical treatment options for it.

What you can expect at UTHealth Houston Neurosciences

The UTHealth Houston Neurosciences Spine Center brings together a multidisciplinary team of board-certified, fellowship-trained neurosurgeons, neurologists, researchers, and pain management specialists who work together to help provide relief for even the most complex problems. People who suffer from radiculopathy, spondylosis, spinal stenosis, herniated disc, degenerative disc disease, peripheral nerve disorders, spinal cord injury, or other trauma benefit from our collaborative expertise in managing spine disorders.

Our multidisciplinary teams of specialists share insights, leading to better treatment decisions and outcomes. We first investigate nonsurgical treatment options, including medical management, pain management, physical therapy, rehabilitation, and watchful waiting. When surgery is needed, our neurosurgeons routinely employ innovative minimally invasive techniques. Throughout the treatment process, we will work closely with the doctor who referred you to ensure a smooth transition back to your regular care. While you are with us, you will receive expert care, excellent communication, and genuine compassion.

Anatomy of the neck and spine

The spine is divided into the following regions:

  • The cervical region (vertebrae C1-C7) encompasses the first seven vertebrae under the skull. Their main function is to support the weight of the head, which averages 10 pounds. The cervical vertebrae are more mobile than other areas, with the atlas and axis vertebra facilitating a wide range of motion in the neck. Openings in these vertebrae allow arteries to carry blood to the brain and permit the spinal cord to pass through. They are the thinnest and most delicate vertebrae.
  • The thoracic region (vertebrae T1-T12) is composed of 12 small bones in the upper chest. Thoracic vertebrae are the only ones that support the ribs. Muscle tension from poor posture, arthritis, and osteoporosis are common sources of pain in this region.
  • The lumbar region (vertebrae L1-L5) features vertebrae that are much larger to absorb the stress of lifting and carrying heavy objects. Injuries to the lumbar region can result in some loss of function in the hips, legs, and bladder control.
  • The sacral region (vertebrae S1-S5) includes a large bone at the bottom of the spine. The sacrum is triangular-shaped and consists of five fused bones that protect the pelvic organs.

Types of Injections for Pain

Common injections for back pain include:

  • Stellate ganglion block (in the front of the neck): Reduces pain and swelling in the head, neck, upper arms, and chest when injected into sympathetic nerves on the sides of the voice box damaged by shingles or another condition. This type of block is also used to improve circulation and blood supply in the arms.
  • Celiac plexus block (in the abdomen): Relieves pain commonly caused by cancer, chronic pancreatitis, and other conditions when injected into the bundle of nerves that surrounds the aorta, the main artery to the abdomen.
  • Lumbar sympathetic block (in the lower back): Helps chronic back, leg, or foot pain caused by conditions such as reflex sympathetic dystrophy, regional pain syndrome, vascular insufficiency, and peripheral neuropathy.
  • Superior hypogastric plexus block (in the pelvis): Treats pelvic and genital pain from conditions such as cancer, endometriosis, and irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Ganglion impar block (in the tailbone): Eases pain caused by cancer and other conditions in the lower pelvis and groin.
  • Occipital block (in the back of the head) Helps reduce pain in the back or side of head, including migraines, cluster headaches, chronic headaches, spondylosis, and other head pain caused by inflamed nerves.
  • Supraorbital block (in the forehead and eye socket): Lessens or eliminates pain from burns and other injuries, as well as migraines and other types of headaches with injections near the eyebrows.
  • Suprascapular block (in the shoulder): Relieves pain in the shoulder area from degenerative disease or arthritis.

What to expect during the procedure and recovery

Pain management specialists use imaging to guide the needle to the area that surrounds the nerve. The procedure often takes less than 30 minutes, and patients are typically advised to rest from strenuous activity for 24 hours following an injection. The amount of time a patient experiences pain relief varies from days to weeks or even years, but most patients receive multiple shots over time. It can take several days for patients to experience full pain relief from a steroid injection.

Your pain management specialist will give you specific information personalized to your condition and lifestyle goals, as well as a detailed description of the procedure and instructions on how to recover successfully.

Spine Disease and Back Pain

Contact Us

At UTHealth Houston Neurosciences, we offer patients access to specialized neurological care at clinics across the greater Houston area. To ask us a question, schedule an appointment, or learn more about us, please call (713) 486-8100, or click below to send us a message. In the event of an emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest Emergency Room.