Nerve Block for Chronic Pain

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Treatment Overview

A nerve block may be used to treat some kinds of chronic pain. It relieves pain by interrupting how pain signals are sent to your brain. It is done by injecting a medicine near a nerve or near the spinal cord or nerve root.

A test block is usually done with a short-acting local anesthetic. It numbs the area of pain to see if you get good pain relief. If you do, your doctor may inject another medicine, such as a steroid or alcohol, that may provide long-lasting pain relief.

Why It Is Done

Nerve blocks may be used to:

  • Relieve painful conditions, including cancer pain.
  • Find the source of chronic pain.
  • Predict how pain will respond to long-term treatments.

How Well It Works

How well a nerve block for chronic pain works depends on the type of block, the medicines used, and the cause of the pain that's being treated. Some blocks last from a few hours up to a day. Others last for months. And some can give permanent relief. Sometimes the block needs to be repeated.

Nerve blocks can work well for some kinds of cancer pain. But they may not work as well for something like low back pain.

Your doctor can help you understand how well a nerve block might work for you.


Problems after a nerve block aren't common. There is a small risk of nerve damage, infection, or bleeding. In rare cases, the medicines used can affect the central nervous system, cardiovascular system, and respiratory system (airway and lungs).


Current as of: July 11, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board: All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.

The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.