The sympathetic nerves run on the front surface of the spinal column and not in the spinal canal with the nerves that provide sensation and strength to your legs. The sympathetic nerves are part of the autonomic nervous system, which basically controls functions such as blood flow and temperature regulation to the arms and legs, sweating, heart rate, digestion, and blood pressure.
The autonomic nervous system is responsible for controlling bodily functions that you do not think about or have direct control over. However, there is a connection between the central nervous system (that you have control over) and the autonomic nervous system.
Celiac Plexus Block
A celiac plexus block relieves severe abdominal pain caused by pancreatic cancer. It’s a type of nerve destruction that stops the celiac plexus nerves in the abdomen from sending pain signals to the brain. Some varieties of celiac plexus block provide temporary pain relief, while others offer long-term relief.
What is a celiac plexus block?
A celiac plexus block is a pain relief treatment delivered by injection. The treatment prevents celiac plexus nerves from sending pain messages to the brain. It’s a type of nerve block.
Healthcare providers use celiac plexus blocks to treat people who have pancreatic cancer or chronic pancreatitis. These conditions can cause severe abdominal pain.
What is the celiac plexus?
The celiac plexus is part of the nervous system. This bundle of nerves in the upper abdomen sits behind the pancreas close to the aorta, the body’s largest blood vessel.
Celiac plexus nerves send signals to the brain and spinal cord from digestive system organs, including the:
Stellate Ganglion Blocks
The stellate ganglion is a collection of nerves (sympathetic) found at the level of the sixth and seventh cervical vertebrae (the last vertebra of the neck). The nerves are located in front of the vertebrae.
They are part of the sympathetic nervous system and supply the face and arm. These nerves are not involved with feeling or movement. Sometimes, after a nerve is sensitized by trauma, infection or other causes, the sympathetic activity can cause pain.
Blocking the sympathetic activity by anesthetizing the stellate ganglion may stop the pain. A stellate ganglion block (sympathetic block) is an injection of local anesthetic into the front of the neck.
A stellate ganglion block is done to:
- Diagnose the cause of pain in the face and head, arms and chest
- Manage pain in the head, neck, chest or arm caused by nerve injuries, the effects of an attack of shingles (herpes zoster) or angina that doesn’t go away
- Reduce sweating in the face, head, arms and hands
- Treat reflex sympathetic dystrophy, sympathetic maintained pain or complex regional pain syndrome
A stellate ganglion block can be either diagnostic—done to find the cause of a patient’s pain—or therapeutic—done to relieve the pain.
Lumbar Sympathetic Nerve Block
A lumbar sympathetic nerve block is a type of injection that eases pain. It’s used for a variety of conditions that cause pain in your legs and feet.
Your brain sends information to the body through pathways known as nerves. Nerves also receive information from the body and send it to the proper regions of the brain. Nerves that communicate some types of pain from the legs and feet pass through the lumbar sympathetic nerves on their way to the brain.
Your lumbar sympathetic nerves lie in front of the spine in the lower back. During a lumbar sympathetic nerve block, your healthcare provider will insert a needle into your lower back. He or she will advance it until it reaches a position in front of the spine where the lumbar sympathetic nerves are. Then he will inject medicine in the area to ease the pain.
Why might I need a lumbar sympathetic nerve block?
You might need a lumbar sympathetic nerve block if you have certain types of pain in your lower legs, ankles, or feet. Often, the procedure works by blocking the nerves from sending pain signals. Other times, it works by blocking the nerves that control some of your body’s involuntary functions like blood vessel size.