Nerve blocks are performed on nerves that supply the sensation to various parts of the scalp. They are often used to treat different types of headaches, including cluster headaches, migraines, and other types of head pain. They consist of a local anesthetic (usually bupivacaine, a long-acting anesthetic); sometimes a corticosteroid is also incorporated, particularly for cluster headache treatment. Their actions are two-fold: (1) the anesthetic effect, where the skin supplied by the nerve becomes numb and (2) the analgesic effect (pain relief). These two factors are independent of each other.
Nerve blocks probably work for pain because they modulate the signals transmitted by the nerves into the brain. The nerves that are injected for a headache are part of the trigeminal nerve system or the upper cervical nerves, and they connect directly into structures in the brain stem that participate in the generation of pain.
There are several types of nerve blocks including occipital-greater and lesser; supraorbital and auriculotemporal.
Our center also offers Sphenopalatine nerve blocks. Sphenopalatine Ganglion (SPG) is the group of nerves behind the nose and sinus area near the throat and is covered by a thin layer of connective tissue and mucous membrane. It is the largest group of nerves outside the area of the brain cavity.
The SPG plays a crucial role as a center to dispatch signals as a part of the autonomic nervous system. The SPG receives sensory inputs from other nerve centers in the body. The nerve fibers coming from the base of the brain pass through another nerve center that directly connects to the SPG and is directly connected to a branch of the facial nerve.
We use specialized FDA cleared, flexible catheters. The procedure involves placing a very thin plastic tube into the nose to insert numbing medication in and around the SPG. These procedures are not painful and less invasive than the injection technique.
As a comprehensive headache center, we perform various nerve blocks. The procedures are done in the office and take only a few minutes to complete.
Your headache specialist can determine which will be the appropriate procedure based on your history and nature of a headache.