Nerve blocks and/or epidurals

Hi there, I was wondering if anyone has had any of the above treatments and whether they've been effective. I have been on pretty much all of the medications: amitriptyline, pregabalon, gabapentin, tramadol, lidocaine patches etc and none of them work. I have flares constantly, I rarely sleep and am really at the end of my ability to cope anymore and I'm starting a new job tomorrow which scares me but I need to work. I've been re-referred to pain clinic which will take about 3 months waiting before I see someone. I lost faith in them as they only offered acupuncture which I've had a lot of and no effect. I feel since I've had it since 2008 it's been ages and getting worse. I've seen specialists who say they won't go down the road of injections (don't know why, memory shot). Feel I've been fobbed off for too long and told to do self-management. It just isn't working and the quality of life I have now is really poor. If anyone can offer any advice based on their experiences, I'd be really grateful. The pain is in my right hand and travels up to my shoulder. Thanks.

30 Replies

  • Has carpel tunnel been mentioned? If it's pain from your hand upwards rather than from your shoulder downwards, it would suggest to me that it is. In that case an op to sever the nerve would be better than a nerve block. If it's from your neck, then a nerve block injection may be the answer. I have them every six months and they're an absolute godsend. Before I had them I was suffering with excruciating migraines on almost a daily basis and pain with each movement of my left arm. Since my first one all pain, apart from when I've been overdoing things, is minimal or none existent.

    I only waited two weeks for my very first appointment and a month for the first injection. I still take Co-Codamol and Oxycodone though, but I have other spinal problems. Tried Gabapentin and Amitryptiline, they did nothing whatsoever!

  • Hi JayneP, thanks for your reply and it's great to hear you've had success. I've had MRI scans on my hand and neck along with nerve conduction studies and they all show that there is nothing there. This devastated me as I was convinced there would have to be something there giving me this terrible pain, pain specialists say that it's a good thing nothing shows and, although I understand what they're saying, it doesn't help me move forward. I have this pain and there's no reason for it. I can't help feeling that I'm not believed as there isn't much to see, just a tiny bit of discolouration on the top knuckle of right index finger to nail bed but my life is a living hell. The waiting list here (Scotland) is a minimum of 12 weeks to see a specialist at the pain clinic. I think it's that they don't know which nerve to inject or something like that.

  • Sweet, sounds awful!!!

    I know nerve blocks don't have a very good reputation but I've got to say, they were a god send for me!!

    I had deep root nerve blocks in my lower back (L4/L5) for pain caused by a prolapsed disc and osteophytes.

    I didn't expect much as a few of the people from my pain group had had them with no effect.

    I was terrified before hand as I thought it would really hurt, I'd never had a local anaesthetic before so I didn't really know what to expect but it was absolutely fine and I barely felt a thing!

    I was pretty sore for 4 or 5 days afterwards, it kinda felt like someone had kicked my lower back but then the pain started to go!! I got a good 6 months free from nerve pain before the nerves started waking up again! I'm currently on the waiting list for my 2nd set of injections!

    the good thing for me though was that my mri showed them exactly where the problem is so if you're tests have all been clear it will make it extremely difficult to find out where to inject.

    Good luck tho honey, I hope you find something that helps soon!!!

  • Good for you with the esi injections, they did absolutely nothing for me. So because of that 2 back surgeries in 6 months. 50 years old b4 any major back problems, well keep in touch

  • ESI? I have nerve block injections done in my neck...not pleasant but they kill more or less all my pain. I had steroid injections in my lower back but they did nothing. I too have had surgery, emergency one at that, and have suffered since I was 21.

  • ESI is epidural. What kind of nerve block do you have?

  • Right... Mines in my neck. Occipital nerve block.

  • Yes ok, sorry but what exactly is a nerve "block"?

  • Sorry, I'm not a doctor, I can only say what I've been told and advise you to Google the term!

  • That's so great that you're getting relief from injections, so happy for you that you had 6 months pain-free, that's wonderful. Long may it continue.

    I understand with me they haven't anything to go on with the MRI but it's a localised area so they could try injecting an area where several nerve roots come from that function in the area i have pain. Or just a blanket epidural. Hope you continue to get good results and the much wished for pain relief x

  • Oh hell Linda that's awful! Well all I can say is go back and ask for stronger meds, until your appointment at least. We don't allow animals to suffer, why should human beings?

    I'm about to go for my fourth nerve block. It's done under the NHS but at a private clinic. I can't praise them highly enough and can't wait to be relatively pain free again. Good luck, I hope you get seen soon! xx

  • I agree, Jane, I've even said that to several doctors. On on visit to out-of-hours GP in the middle of the night I was pretty distraught (but not rude in any way) and said I dont' understand how it's OK to just turn me away with nothing because "it's an existing condition and I need to see my GP the next day to discuss with them, and theycouodn't help me there because they don't keep drugs at the out-of-hours". I was not hostile, just pointed out that an animal wouldn't be alllowed to suffer like this and his response was "why are you getting angry at me?" So I left in such despair and exhaustion that i was planning all sorts of very 'final' things to do to finally get some peace. 've alsonbeen to A&E when at my limits and they say the same, can't do anything, my partner wasn't going to let them fob me off so they reluctantly gave me a 5mg diazepam to take away. I feel I'm begging for help but it's just not there. So glad your injections work for you, that gives us hope x

  • Well, this times have been awful! Had them Tuesday and he did them in different areas (higher up my neck), ever since I've been in worse pain than I was the very first time. I'm hoping that it's because he seemed to go deeper with the needles. It took two weeks to be pain free the very first time, hoping it isn't going to take that long this time, I'm used to being pain free!

    I can't understand the attitude of your hospital. My friend went to our local A&E with migraine and was given all kinds of help, even kept in overnight. How can they turn someone away in pain?

  • Oh, sorry to hear that, really hope it settles for you! Was it the same person administering the injections?

    I honestly can't understand it either, but it's happened in more than one hospital, when I was living in England and again back in Scotland. I won't go to them for help again.

  • Thank you so do I because it's really making life hard! Yes, it's always the specialist himself. I'm wondering if it was because I went longer than 6 months due to an admin error, so like having them for the first time all over again and that was horrendous, I swore I'd never have them done again! But, the benefits far outweighed the after effects, it took about a week to kick in.

    You shouldn't feel that way though should you? Pain is pain. They tell you to ring the out of hours service and they're useless!

  • Hi I've been on most of the meds you've tried for nerve pain in my ribs. I went on Fentanyl patches which helped a lot! But be warned this is a serious drug & once you're on it you may never come off it. Hope that helps. X

  • Thanks, it's tedious trying drug after drug for at least 6 weeks at a time, isn't it? And they all come with some horrible side-effects - which I'd accept and manage if they worked! The Fentanyl patches will be on my list to speak to GP about - can they prescribe them or does it have to be a specialist? How often do you wear them/keep them on? Thanks x

  • My Pain Consultant said steroid injections were no longer routine because of the bone weakening properties. Consequently I am having radio frequency ablation, which singes some nerve endings, at the end of May.

  • That sounds interesting, never heard of that before. Where would you get that done? Are yo in England? Really hope it works for you x

  • It makes me laugh how some will tell you anything to save money, and that is all it is. I have been having the injections for two years now and no mention of that or that they will end any time soon. My pain specialist told me that as long as they work for me he is quite willing to carry on giving them. So I think yours is telling you porky pies!

  • Hi hang in there, no wonder your in pain, tramadol and lidocaine is no match for severe pain. I had tramadol did nothing to relieve my knee and back pain. Lidocaine is. Just a local numbing agent, I would try to find another pain clinic if possible, a holistic pain clinic is fine for some people, but no match for real pain around the clock, England seems to have different treatment levels than the state's, I have never heard of those medications until I got on this site.

    I take a muscle relaxer, not consistently and low dose pain med. It helps enough so I'm not in total agony. Back surgery, well good luck to you, explore your options.

  • What works for one won't necessarily work for another. Tramadol stopped working for me after 15 years. I'm now on OxyContin slow release and even though not totally pain free, it's enough to get through the day. I have Occipital nerve blocks done six monthly for neck pain and they help tremendously.

  • Where do you live, Jane? Just out of interest - sorry if you've said and I've missed it. Was the OxyContin prescribed by GP or pain clinic and is it an opiate or something else? Thanks.

  • I'm in West Yorkshire Linda. Yes OxyContin was prescribed by my GP and it's a Morphine substitute, so on the controlled drugs list. I take one 15mg tablet twice a day as they're slow release, but I also take Co-Codamol 30/500mg in between if I get breakthrough pain. Which I am at the moment with just having my nerve block injections.

  • Thank you, I feel over the years that I've done so much research to try and become educated about it in the hope that it'll lead to pain becoming manageable.

  • Thanks for replies everyone, it really helps to feel less isolated! I will ask about the Fentanyl patches and a second opinion or referral to another clinic if I don't think they're taking me seriously. Relaxation techniques are fine but when you're on your third night of no sleep and no let up in pain it doesn't quite cut it. If there was a 'how to torture and break someone' handbook, pain and sleep deprivation would be page 1...

    I'm in Scotland and I went to a Scottish parliament debate a couple of years back where they pledged to improve services for chronic pain sufferers, I even had an MP raise my issues about my concerns over treatment - or lack of. I feel I may be down as a troublemaker or a flake. I'm neither, just in a hell of a lot of pain far too often.

    Hope you're all having as good a day as you can x

  • Up to recently I have had epidurals to help with pain from bulging disc in my lower back, without warning my pain clinic (North Wales) has withdrawn all injections until further notice, this has left me distraught as it was the only thing that helped my lower back pain, I have also been taken off all anti inflammatories as they have damaged my stomach lining, all I can say dont start any new treatment if there is a risk of it being withdrawn even though it is working!

  • Oh, that's awful and cruel. Do you know why the injections have been stopped, is it for financial reasons in that they're finding them 'too expensive'. It's not humane to withdraw help like that. Is their a patient forum like a PALs group in the NHS that can find out more info for you? Also, were you taking the, I think it's called omnazeprole (sp?) with the anti-inflammatories to counteract what the anti-inflammatories do? I really hope you get some answers / alternatives very soon xx

  • Hi Linda thank you for your reply. Yes I was taking Omeprazole but I was taking Diclofenac and my GP said it had been withdrawn due to heart risks, I had no problems with it though, I was then put on one called Naproxen which has caused the problem, when I told my pain Dr that I was struggling with stairs since I wasn't taking the anti inflammatories and my legs were really painful, he suggested I get a stair lift, not really helpful, The epidurals have been withdrawn due to funding, we are really suffering with cuts in North Wales, I don't know if there is a PAL scheme here but I will try to find out, I know a lot of people on the site find their pain clinics really supportive but I must say mine is a bit hit and miss.

    Thanks again for reply Sheryl x

  • Hi, I have suffered chronic pain for 5 years now. Following years of intermittent pain pain I had a ruptured disc removed from my lumbar spine. Then followed more chronic pain and an MRI which showed disc degeneration, shmorles nodes, beaks and three bulging discs all in my lumber spine and one in my thoracic spine.

    I was originally told there was nothing I could do by one doctor who said I should just keep taking my pain killing tablets. However, a wrong move or lifting something a little too heavy would have me flat on my back for a week or more, asleep most of the time because of even stronger pain killing tablets.

    I saw another doctor who recommended a back specialist to me. I had x rays, mri with contrast and spect ct scan. He told me there was an operation I could have but he would rather I see a pain specialist first as the operation had a long recovery time.

    The pain specialist suggested I have nerve root injections in my lumber spine and steroid injection in bursitis in my right hip which I had been suffering with for two years. I was given sedation and the injections given using x ray guidance. The effect was immediate and amazing! To be completely pain free was such a relief, nothing the tablets did was ever like this.

    Of course the injections only last so long. I now find them wearing off at three months and have agreed with the specialist to return after four months for more. A further MRI diagnosed Baastrups syndrome, "kissing spine", where spinal processes rub together and I am so pleased that I am having injections.

    The injections mean that I can now plan and live my life most of the time. I can plan holidays etc. Whilst before I was frightened of arranging anything, never knowing whether I would be able to make it or how much pain I would be in on the day. Just getting ready to go out sitting doing hair, makeup and even getting dressed was so painful. Of course there are still things I cannot do, certain household chores like hoovering, sweeping, moping and bending from the waist, lifting anything slightly heavy like wet sheets. I have now learnt what I can and more importantly what I cannot do and am enjoying life much more.

    I would recommend pain killing injections.

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