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Patients undergoing nerve block treatment for the first time typically have many questions about the procedure. Here are a few common questions and answers to put your mind at ease and help you prepare for treatment.

What is a nerve block?

A nerve block is an injection of numbing medication near a certain group of nerves to reduce pain caused by a range of conditions and issues. Patients may receive a nerve block during and after surgery.

What are the different types of nerve blocks?

Surgical nerve blocks include:

  • Sympathetic blockade. The nerve block is done to block pain from the sympathetic nervous system.
  • Neurectomy. A damaged peripheral nerve is destroyed through surgery.
  • Rhizotomy. The root of the nerves that extend from the spine are destroyed during surgery.


Nonsurgical nerve blocks include:

  • Epidural analgesia or anesthesia. Medicine is injected outside the spinal cord.
  • Spinal anesthesia or analgesia. Medicine is injected in the fluid surrounding the spinal cord.
  • Peripheral nerve blockade. Medicine is injected around a target nerve causing pain.

A few types of nerve blocks performed at Westcare Clinics include:

  • Celiac plexus block. Treats severe abdominal pain caused by pancreatic cancer.
  • Ganglion impar block. Eases pain in the lower pelvis and groin.
  • Hypogastric plexus block. Treats chronic pain in the pelvic area.
  • Ilioinguinal nerve block. Treats groin pain caused by hernia surgery or trauma to the groin.
  • Intercostal nerve block. Treats chest pain from a herpes zoster infection or surgical incision.
  • Lumbar sympathetic block. Treats reflex sympathetic dystrophy, herpes zoster infection in the legs, complex regional pain syndrome, vascular insufficiency, and peripheral neuropathy.
  • Medial branch block. Done to diagnose pain from the small media nerves connected to the facet joint.
  • Facet block. Done to numb a facet joint and relieve pain in the neck and back.
  • Occipital nerve block. Treats pain affecting the head, spondylosis, tender or painful scalp, and cluster headaches.
  • Stellate ganglion block. Done to diagnose or treat pain from causalgia, phantom limb pain, complex regional pain syndrome, reflex sympathetic dystrophy, and herpes zoster infection.


What is a lower extremity nerve block?

A lower extremity nerve block may treat pain in the hip, thigh, knee, ankle, or foot.

What is an upper extremity nerve block?

An upper extremity nerve block may treat pain in the shoulder, arm, wrist, or hand.

Will the procedure hurt?

Patients are given a sedative before a nerve block to help them relax. The nerve block will involve placing a needle near the nerves that supply the part of the body being treated.

Who isn’t a candidate for nerve blocks?

Nerve blocks are not recommended for patients who:

  • Have an infection at the injection site
  • Are taking anticoagulants
  • Have a bleeding disorder
  • Have neural problems in the nerves being injected


Work Injuries and Your Labor and Industry Claim

Westcare Clinic can be a part of your injury claim team if you got hurt on the job. Washington’s Workers’ Compensation program can provide medical treatment for your injuries. We are proud to take workers’ compensation patients. Hard work is the backbone of our nation. When people work, inevitably, some of them will get injured on the job.

We handle workers’ compensation patients frequently, so we know how the claims process works for these cases. You do not want to get your claim denied because a health care professional somewhere else filled out a form incorrectly. We are here to help you, not cause bureaucratic headaches for you.

By providing all of the information the workers’ compensation program needs, we can help you avoid delays with your injury claim. Our experience in treating patients with workers’ compensation claims is to your benefit.

Types of Work Injuries

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 2.5 million Americans a year get hurt on the job badly enough to need treatment in the emergency room. This number means that 160 out of every 10,000 workers sustain severe injuries on the job annually.

The CDC says that the three leading causes of workplace injuries are:

Contact with objects and equipment
Overexertion and bodily reaction
Slips and trips without a fall

Workers age 24 or younger have the highest rate of emergency room-treated work injuries than any other age group. Nearly two-thirds of injured workers who need treatment in the emergency room are male. Almost one-fourth of all fatal work accidents involve motor vehicle crashes.

The CDC has a Traumatic Injury Prevention Program whose priority is to reduce the number of injuries and deaths from these work-related situations:

  • Performing job tasks by using industrial vehicles and machines
  • Falls
  • Motor vehicle collisions
  • Workplace violence

The Traumatic Injury Prevention Program is part of the CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). NIOSH researches health and safety issues in an effort to foster workplaces that are both safe and productive. You can find guidance on how to prevent workplace fatalities and injuries for specific types of work, like construction and agriculture, and particular circumstances, like highway work zone safety, electrical safety, and working in confined spaces.

Some common on-the-job injuries are:

  • Fractures. When a worker falls from a height, has a slip or trip and fall accident, material or equipment drops on or strikes him, has an equipment or motor vehicle accident, he can break bones.
  • Ergonomic issues. Workers can be at risk of soft tissue injury and musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) because of poorly designed workspaces and tasks that take a toll on the body. Repetitive like typing for eight hours a day can cause carpal tunnel syndrome, a compression of nerves in the wrist. Sudden or ongoing exposure to vibration or force can injure a worker. Awkward posture because of work areas designed without the worker’s safety or health in mind can lead to degeneration of muscles and bones.
  • Back or neck injuries. People who perform heavy lifting, physical labor, sitting or standing for long periods at work are susceptible to sudden or chronic back injuries. We have multiple treatment options for job-related back or neck injuries.
  • Lacerations and burns. Jobs that involve working with heavy machinery or electrical items carry a risk of lacerations or burns severe enough to need treatment in an emergency room.
  • Traumatic brain injury. A person can suffer a traumatic brain injury (TBI) at work in a slip or trip and fall accident, a fall from a height, or a job-related motor vehicle accident, to name just a few examples. A TBI can cause life-long impairment and lead to excruciating headaches. Some people have severe headaches for many years after a head injury. We have multiple treatment options for headaches.

These are but a few examples of work-related injuries. You can call us to find out how we can help you get relief from the pain of your workers’ compensation injury.

Workers’ Compensation Can Cover Work-Related Diseases

Many people think of workers’ compensation as providing benefits when a person gets injured at work, but they do not realize that Washington’s workers’ compensation program can also apply to work-related illnesses and diseases. Some examples of these illnesses include:

  • Asbestosis. A person can get exposed to asbestos fibers on the job when performing repairs to equipment in older buildings, removing flooring or popcorn ceilings, and doing renovation work to commercial or residential property. Asbestosis can be extremely painful. We can perform nerve blocks and other interventions to improve the patient’s quality of life.
  • Cancer. Millions of people in America get exposed to carcinogens at work. Researchers estimate that between three and six percent of all cancer is the result of workplace exposure.
  • Throughout the workday, many people get exposed to infectious diseases. Sometimes a person merely catches a cold from workplace exposure, but unfortunately, a person can catch more severe diseases that have acute short-term complications and can develop into chronic impairments. Some of these conditions are painful. We have interventions available that can make a patient more comfortable both in the short term and long term.

Westcare Clinic is your one-stop pain management and treatment center.

Washington’s Worker’s Compensation Program

Our state has a Workers’ Compensation Program that provides these benefits for people with work-related illnesses or injuries:

  • Medical treatment
  • Vocational rehabilitation to help the injured worker get back to work after getting released by the treating doctor or transition into a different type of work because of lasting impairment from the work-related injury or illness
  • Lost wages, in the form of Temporary Total Disability (TTD) payments and Temporary Partial Disability (TPD) payments
  • Lost future wages, in the form of Permanent Total Disability (PTD) payments and Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) payments
  • Additional claim-related benefits or expenses, like reimbursement for mileage

If a person dies from a work-related injury or illness, qualified dependents can receive some compensation. Depending on your situation, you might qualify for additional benefits.

Key Points to Know

If a person has a work-related injury or illness and does not follow the strict rules of the Workers’ Compensation Program, the program can refuse to pay any benefits, even medical expenses and lost wages. It is vital to learn the regulations of the program immediately after an illness or injury on the job. Failure to do so could leave a person with a lifelong disability and a stack of unpaid medical bills.

Here are three things to know about workers’ compensation:

  • Notify your employer immediately. If a person does not provide timely notice to the boss and use the correct notification form, that alone can destroy his claim for medical and financial benefits.
  • Unless it is an emergency, only use the medical providers on your employer’s approved medical providers list or a medical provider that your boss approved for you. If your employer allows you to get treatment from someone not on the usual list, make sure that you get that authorization in writing. If you go to a doctor, hospital, or another medical facility whom your employer does not approve, you will likely have to pay those costs out of your own pocket. The workers’ compensation program and your regular health insurance will not pay those medical bills.
  • Cooperate with your employer and the insurance company your boss uses for workers’ compensation claims. Sometimes people get frustrated with the bureaucracy, so they push back by refusing to sign medical records releases, complete or sign forms, or provide evidence the insurance company needs to process the claim. The worker loses when this happens, because failure to cooperate can be grounds for the insurance company to legitimately deny your claim.

Of course, in the event of an emergency, a sick or injured worker should go to the nearest emergency room. Also, some employers will allow a worker to go to a doctor or facility that is not on the approved list if the worker makes a formal request and shows a convincing reason for the request. If there are not any doctors or facilities on the approved list who provide the type of treatment a worker needs, most bosses will be reasonable about authorizing “outside” treatment.

When a person gets sick or hurt because of something that happened on the job, there are a lot of different things to juggle. For example:

  • Jumping through all the hoops to qualify for workers’ compensation benefits.
  • Dealing with the pain and inconvenience of the illness or injury.
  • Trying to get well again.
  • Worrying about whether the person will heal entirely or having lasting impairment from the illness or injury.
  • Stressing about becoming unemployed while at home, recuperating.

Westcare Clinic can help with the pain at the time of illness or injury, as well as discomfort from treatments like physical therapy, and chronic pain issues. We can be a part of your treatment team for many work-related conditions. Illnesses and injuries often cause pain, and we can help restore your quality of life by reducing or eliminating your discomfort from a work-related disease.


Can Rhizotomies Be Effective for Pain?

Rhizotomy, also called radiofrequency ablation (RFA), is a rising star on the pain management stage. RFA procedures interrupt pain signals from getting to the brain from specific areas of the body. Because RFA is a non-surgical treatment, the patient does not face the risks inherent in surgical operations, according to the University of California at San Francisco. The doctor targets specific nerves, depending on where the patient experiences pain.

Nerves carry messages to the brain from all over the body. Without these messages getting interpreted by the brain, a person cannot feel pain. Often, a pain signal to the brain alerts a person that something is wrong, for example, that he injured his ankle when he fell. Sometimes, however, a person endures chronic pain from irritated nerves.

When a person has ongoing pain from something like arthritis, cerebral palsy, or terminal cancer, the pain messages do not help the person. Chronic pain diminishes the quality of life and robs a person of the ability to be physically and socially active. Rhizotomies can diminish or eliminate pain by passing a small electrical current through a probe to the affected nerve.

At Westcare Clinic, we care about our patients and want them to enjoy their life. We have a wide variety of treatments available to address pain issues. When a patient does not get the desired pain relief from other therapies, we can evaluate whether a rhizotomy may be appropriate and effective.

An Overview of Rhizotomies

A rhizotomy is an effective treatment for axial pain that does not respond well to more traditional approaches. During this non-invasive process, you will be under intravenous (IV) sedation while the doctor inserts a tiny needle probe/electrode that delivers a radiofrequency pulse. The doctor will use a local anesthetic to numb the injection site before inserting the tiny needle probe/electrode.

An RFA procedure usually takes only an hour or two, and the patient can go home afterward. A person should not drive for at least 24 hours after an RFA, so the patient should arrange transportation home. Complications are rare and include nerve damage, bleeding, and infection. Nerves often regrow, so after a few months to a year, the effectiveness of the RFA might diminish. Results vary from one patient to another.

Most RFA procedures target the facet joints of the spine, but RFA can also help address chronic pain in other areas of the body, like the knees and hips. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) conducts extensive research on treatments for pain. The NINDS explains that rhizotomy/radiofrequency ablation decreases pain signals from specific areas by heating up a small portion of nerve tissue with radio waves from an electrical current.

In the past, many doctors merely prescribed opioid painkillers for patients with chronic pain, but the national epidemic of opioid addiction caused a different approach to pain management. Narcotic painkillers still have a place in the treatment of pain, but in lower doses and for brief periods. Rhizotomy is a tool that can treat chronic pain without causing addiction.

Rhizotomies for Back or Neck Pain

The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) of the U.S. Library of Medicine published a report on the use of rhizotomy (RFA) for chronic neck or back pain. Many people experience temporary back pain at some point in life, but as much as seven percent of adults live with chronic back pain. Chronic neck or back pain presents a pain management challenge for doctors. This ongoing discomfort limits the ability of many patients to lead a fully productive life or to enjoy life, yet the causes of chronic pain are complex and hard to treat.

The report indicates that rhizotomy can alleviate muscle spasms as well as pain. The procedure uses pulses of heat to sever small areas of nerve roots that send pain signals to the brain. Healthcare providers typically try other pain management interventions before turning to RFA, but this treatment can be useful in patients with persistent neck or back pain that does not respond well enough to standard therapies or who cannot undergo other treatments.

The NCBI report reviewed the existing literature for evidence of the effectiveness of RFA for neck or back pain. The research studies included patients with:

  • Low back pain from facet disease of the lumbar spine
  • Chronic neck, upper back, mid-back, or low back pain that had gone on for at least three months
  • Chronic low back pain due to sacroiliitis of at least three months duration
  • Pain from facet joint or sacroiliac joint or a combination of facet joint, sacroiliac joint, or intervertebral joint that did not respond to conservative treatment
  • Chronic low back pain secondary to ankylosing spondylitis that lasted at least three months

The literature revealed mixed results, finding that a rhizotomy is effective at treating pain from some causes, might provide benefits for chronic pain from some other causes, and does not provide consistent pain relief for certain groups. The studies did establish that generally, a rhizotomy is a superior pain treatment to oral medications. Patients who take oral medications like arthritis drugs to manage chronic pain tend to experience drug-related side effects like abdominal and epigastric pain, nausea, diarrhea, and severe itching of the skin (pruritis).

The guidelines from these studies indicate that rhizotomy can be effective for certain types of neck and back pain like facet joint issues. Doctors should evaluate other, more conservative treatments such as chiropractic therapy, physical therapy, or home exercises before considering RFA. The patient’s pain level should be at least a 4 on the pain scale.

Rhizotomies for Knee Pain

Hundreds of thousands of people every year undergo knee replacement surgery because the joint breaks down from things like osteoarthritis. Knee replacement surgery is a major operation with a significant recuperation time. Recovery from knee replacement surgery involves months of painful physical therapy. Even after going through the surgery and recuperation, many knee replacements fail, and the patient is worse off than before the operation.

Every kind of surgery carries risks like infection, bleeding, and tissue damage. When the operation involves removing a body part like a knee and replacing it with an artificial joint, there are additional risks, like an allergic reaction to the material in the implanted device or a defect in the artificial joint.

The Cleveland Clinic advises that people whose knee pain from osteoarthritis had not responded well enough to conventional treatments might want to consider a rhizotomy, also called a radiofrequency ablation (RFA). The traditional non-surgical treatments for knee pain from osteoarthritis include:

  • Weight loss to take pressure and strain off of the knee.
  • Physical therapy to keep the joint flexible and functional.
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatories like acetaminophen (Tylenol), naproxen (Aleve), and ibuprofen (Motrin).
  • Knee braces help some patients.
  • Steroid injections to reduce inflammation.
  • Injections of hyaluronic acid. This substance is present in healthy joints.

When those interventions do not work, the patient might turn to knee replacement surgery, but there are several reasons not to take that route, including:

  • Knee replacement surgery typically only lasts for 10 to 20 years, and then the patient has to undergo another surgery to have the failed replacement joint removed and a new one implanted. Then the patient has to go through the entire recuperation process again. With orthopedic surgery, each subsequent replacement tends to be less successful than the previous surgery and last for less time.
  • Knee osteoarthritis is appearing in much younger patients now than in the past. People do not want to sign themselves up for a lifetime of knee surgeries that eventually fail and have to get repeated, each time with diminishing results.
  • Some patients have underlying medical conditions that place them at a high risk of anesthesia or surgical complications.
  • Some people get allergic reactions to the materials (like nickel and other metals) in some of the components of replacement knees.

Because of those issues, many people now opt for rhizotomy to relieve the pain of knee osteoarthritis by heating the malfunctioning nerves with radio waves. The heat deadens the nerve so that it can no longer send pain signals to the brain. Some patients experience a small amount of soreness in the area of the RFA procedure for a few weeks, but most people get more pain reduction than discomfort.

Nerves tend to grow back or regenerate, so the RFA procedure is not a permanent solution. Discomfort can return after about six months to two years. There is no limit to how many times a person can have a rhizotomy for regrown nerves to manage the pain of knee osteoarthritis. Continuing physical activity after a knee rhizotomy can help minimize future pain. The RFA can take away the pain so that the patient can tolerate beneficial exercise, but excessive physical therapy can do more harm than good causing excessive wear and tear conditions.

At Westcare Clinic, we offer many different options to treat pain. Rhizotomy can deliver excellent results, but it is not for everyone. You can call us today to find out how we might be able to help you escape the clutches of pain and enjoy your life again.


Neck and Back Treatment

Almost everyone experiences neck or back pain from time to time. Whether you overdid it during a work-out, have a flare-up from an old injury, got hurt at work or in a car accident, or have a chronic condition like arthritis, you probably have discomfort in your neck or back on an occasional or ongoing basis.

The good news is that you do not have to endure pain for the rest of your life. We have many different types of treatments for neck and back problems that can get you back on your feet and enjoying your life again.

Are Neck and Back Treatments Risky?

All medical procedures have some risk. We only use treatments that are approved for use and shown to be effective. We follow strict protocols to make every medical intervention as safe as possible and to minimize the risk to the patient.

The type of treatment we use depends on many factors, including:

  • The location of the condition. We use different therapies for stiffness and soreness in the neck following a car accident than we do for a herniated disc.
  • The cause of the pain. An acute injury, like a fall at work, will need a different approach than a chronic condition, like osteoarthritis.
  • The severity of the issue. One person might feel some tingling in the hands, while another person might have excruciating pain that prevents him from standing or walking. We use different treatments for these cases.
  • Unique aspects of the patient. A person’s medical history, including underlying medical conditions, previous injuries, and therapeutic limitations like drug allergies.

Our trained medical professionals gather this and additional information to design a unique treatment plan for each patient.

Treatments We Offer for Neck and Back Pain

We specialize in the treatment of pain to return the quality of life to our patients. As such, we offer a vast array of treatment methods. Some of our patients do best after receiving a combination of therapeutic interventions.

We do not practice “one-size-fits-all” medicine here. We create customized treatment plans for our patients and monitor their progress so that we can adjust the treatments as needed to maximize the benefit to the patient.

Neck and Thoracic Pain Treatments

A problem in the neck can cause pain in the neck, shoulders, arms, hands, and ribcage. We can perform nerve blocks and various types of injections, depending on the source of the discomfort. For example:

  • Epidural steroid injections. Corticosteroid medications can provide relief from pain when injected into the neck near the inflamed nerve roots.
  • Injections at the facet joint. Corticosteroids or numbing agents like lidocaine can relieve pain when injected into the facet joints of the spine in the neck.
  • Medial branch nerve blocks can be an effective way to relieve persistent neck pain that involves problems with the cervical facet joints.
  • Radiofrequency ablation, also called radiofrequency neurotomy, can temporarily turn off the ability of specific nerves to send pain signals. The doctor inserts needles into the skin near the location of the pain. The needles target the irritated or damaged nerves and deliver radio waves to pause the pain messages. Some people experience reduced discomfort for months.
  • Intercostal nerve blocks can diminish pain in the rib cage area through the injection of steroids and a local anesthetic.

An individual patient’s situation might require the use of other therapeutic modalities.

Low Back Pain Treatments

An issue in the lower back can cause discomfort in the back as well as the buttocks, legs, and feet. Some lower back impairments can cause a person to lose bladder and bowel function. Our goal is to restore as much function as possible and take away the pain.

To do so, we can perform:

  • Steroid injections can help relieve discomfort and inflammation in the lower back, just as in the neck.
  • Facet joint injections. These steroid or numbing agent injections can effectively reduce pain and swelling.
  • Piriformis injections. The piriformis is a muscle that connects the pelvis to the sacrum at the base of the spine and to the greater trochanter at the top of the hip. When a person has sciatic nerve problems, the piriformis muscle can go into painful spasms. Injecting steroids into the piriformis can bring down the swelling of the muscle and the sciatic nerve. The injection can include numbing drugs to temporarily halt the muscle spasms. Piriformis injections can treat the immediate discomfort and help the doctor diagnose the source of the problem.
  • Trigger point injections involve injecting medication into painful “knots” in muscles, also called “trigger points.” These injections can alleviate muscle pain in the lower back, neck, legs, and arms.
  • Vertebral Augmentation Kyphoplasty. When a person has compression fractures of the vertebrae, the multiple small breaks in the spinal bones can cause the vertebrae to collapse or compress. The patient can experience pain and become hunched over, also called a kyphotic condition. The doctor inserts bone cement into the shattered bones with a hollow needle. When the bone cement hardens, it provides support to the spine, alleviating the patient’s pain and postural issues.
  • Thoracolumbar spinal cord stimulator trial and implantation. These medical devices reduce back pain by releasing low levels of electrical pulses directly to the spinal cord. There are two procedures involved: a trial and the permanent implantation. A spinal cord stimulator can allow a patient to take fewer drugs for pain and improve the quality of life.

Tailbone or Sacral Pain Treatments

Usually, pain from an issue with the tailbone or sacral region of the spine causes more localized discomfort. The discomfort can be in the lower back and buttocks areas. The patient can develop secondary pain on the side of the leg or hip because the tailbone/sacral pain leads to a change in how the patient walks, trying to avoid or minimize the pain.

We offer these treatments for tailbone/sacral pain:

  • S4/S5 nerve blocks. These nerve blocks involve injection steroid or other medication at the S4/S5 level of the spine; in other words, the fourth and fifth vertebrae of the sacral (S) region of the spine.
  • Sacroiliac joint injections. The sacroiliac joint joins the lower end of the spine to the pelvis.
  • Epidural steroid injections. We can perform these injections in much the same way as epidural steroid injections at higher locations in the neck or back.

Nerve Pain Treatments

When the nerves of the neck or back get irritated, compressed, or damaged, the patient can experience nerve pain. We provide these nerve block treatments for nerve pain:

  • Lumbar plexus nerve block. An injection at the lumbar plexus can relieve pain in the lower back and leg.
  • Ganglion impar nerve blocks can evaluate and treat ongoing pain caused by the ganglion impar (the collection of nerves near the tailbone).
  • Superior hypogastric plexus nerve block. The hypogastric plexus is a nerve bundle near the base of the spinal cord. A hypogastric plexus nerve block can reduce pain in the pelvis for patients with pelvic cancer, radiation damage, endometriosis, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or conditions that affect various organs in the abdominal cavity or pelvic region.
  • Splanchnic nerve blocks are injections to alleviate pain in the upper abdomen. The splanchnic nerves run down the sides of the spine and transmit messages of pain to the brain. Patients with chronic pancreatitis, cancer, or other painful conditions can benefit from this type of nerve block.

We can perform additional therapies and treatments for a person’s neck or back pain, depending on the needs of the patient.

Neck and Back Pain Conditions We Treat

We can treat nearly every possible type of neck or back pain condition. It is not possible to list every kind of neck or back pain here, but these are some examples of situations in which we can help:

  • Back pain – general, upper (cervical), middle (thoracic), and lower back (lumbar/sacral). Regardless of whether your back hurts high, low, or anywhere in-between, we have treatments that can relieve the discomfort.
  • Coccydynia – tailbone pain, also called coccygodnia. The tailbone is the bony area at the bottom of the spine. Many people injure the tailbone and end up with pain for years. Some of the common causes of tailbone pain include childbirth by vaginal delivery, degenerative joint conditions, falling in a sitting or lying position, and sitting for long periods on hard or narrow surfaces. It can be painful to stand, sit, engage in sexual activity, or have a bowel movement. Menstruation can be more painful with tailbone pain.
  • Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD). As people age, the joints in their knees, hips, and spine begin to break down as a form of wear and tear. Arthritis in the spine can cause the cartilage, including the discs between the vertebrae, to deteriorate. Medical research does not yet have an answer for why some people develop arthritis of the spine, also called degenerative disc disease, and others do not, and why DDD is more severe in some patients than others. DDD is seldom static; in other words, the condition usually worsens with time.
  • Facet joint pain, also called facet arthritis, is a condition that affects the facet joints of the spine. A person has two facet joints on each vertebra (bone) of the spine, one on each side. The facet joints make the spine stable by limiting the range of motion of the spinal column. Facet joints also allow a person to turn or bend, to be flexible. When the cartilage on the ends of the facet joints succumbs to wear and tear and erodes, a person can grow bone spurs (osteophytes), and the joints in the back can enlarge. Both of those things can cause pain.
  • Failed Back Surgery Syndrome (FBSS). When a patient has back surgery for the purpose of relieving spinal pain, but the operation does not achieve the desired result, the patient can get diagnosed with Failed Back Surgery Syndrome. The diagnosis causes confusion, in that, FBSS is not actually a syndrome, it is a status. For example, post-partum means that someone had a baby. Post-partum is a status, not a condition. When back surgery for pain fails, the patient can face a long road to recovery, including additional surgery. We can help relieve FBSS pain.
  • Failed Neck Surgery Syndrome is similar to Failed Back Surgery Syndrome. The patient had surgery of the neck to relieve pain, but the operation failed to achieve that goal. In either situation, the procedure failure can refer to bone or tissue that does not heal correctly, failure of an implanted medical device, complications like scar tissue make the original problem worse, or the original problem returns after the operation. We have multiple interventions that can help patients with Failed Neck or Back Surgery Syndrome.
  • Herniated Disc. A person has many little bones running down the center of the back. These bones, called vertebrae, would crunch and scrape against each other if they did not have tissue between them to provide cushioning. The little round “pillows” between the vertebrae are discs. Spinal discs are a hard, rubbery exterior and a gooey filling, like a gel. If the disc gets pinched or compressed because of arthritis or an injury, some of the gel can leak out into the surrounding tissue. The gel irritates the nerve endings in the nearby tissue, causing pain.
  • Lumbar Post-Laminectomy Syndrome. Laminectomy is a delicate surgery in which the surgeon removes part of the bone (vertebrae) in your spine to relieve pain. When a person had intense pain from pressure on the spinal nerves or spinal cord, a laminectomy can open up a little more space inside the spinal column. For example, a bone spur on the spin can cause excruciating pain. A laminectomy can remove the bony overgrowth. Lumbar Post-Laminectomy Syndrome is when the surgery fails to relieve the pain.
  • Lumbar Spinal Stenosis. When the spaces inside the spine narrow because of osteoarthritis or other causes, the compressed space can “pinch” nerves, leading to numbness, tingling, muscle weakness, and pain. The symptoms can be in the lower back, buttocks, legs, and feet. Lumbar spinal stenosis can be a reason for surgical intervention, but we have many additional options for this painful medical condition.
  • Neck Pain. Whether your neck pain is from a recent or old injury, ergonomic issues at work, arthritis, or an injury on the job, we have a variety of therapies that can provide relief.
  • Neuralgia – general, intercostal, and occipital. In general, neuralgia refers to a stabbing pain that can happen intermittently along the course of a nerve. Often, neuralgia is on the face or head. Occipital neuralgia, in which the patient has shooting or tingling pain on one side of the scalp, can be the result of a pinched nerve in the neck. Intercostal neuralgia involves pain between the ribs, sometimes from spinal arthritis.
  • Osteoarthritis. This common degenerative condition attacks the joints, causing swelling and pain and reducing mobility of the joints. Although the name osteoarthritis means arthritis of the bones, osteoarthritis does not directly damage the bones. Osteoarthritis breaks down the cartilage of the joints. Cartilage at the ends of bones within a joint serve as “shock absorbers” for the impact of motion. Without cartilage, bones will scrape against each other. Eventually, the rubbing damages the bones and the joint.
  • Sacroiliac Joint Pain. The five spinal bones (vertebrae) at the base of the spine fuse together to form the sacrum. The sacroiliac joint connects the pelvis and the spine. The iliac are the two pelvic bones, sitting on either side of the sacrum. Osteoarthritis can wear away the cartilage within the joint, leading to sacroiliac pain. An injury can cause pain around the sacroiliac joint.
  • Sciatica. One of the most common causes of this painful condition is a slipped or herniated disc. Anything that compresses, pinches, or irritates a lower back nerve can lead to the development of sciatica. Although the cause is usually in or near the spine, the nerve pain can run from the buttocks down the back of the leg. In addition to pain, sciatica can cause the foot or leg to feel “asleep” or be weak. Sciatica pain can feel like a volt of electricity. Some people have constant sciatica pain. For others, the triggers can be sneezing, coughing, standing up, or having to sit or stand for a long time without a break.
  • Spondylosis. When bones, ligaments, cartilage, or discs in the neck or back develop wear and tear or get damaged from trauma, a person can develop spondylosis. Pain and stiffness are common symptoms of spondylosis. Slipped discs, pinched nerves, and bone spurs are some types of spondylosis.
  • Vertebral Compression Fractures. The bones in the neck or back (vertebrae) can break without a sudden trauma or accident. Over time, the vertebrae can weaken, thanks to arthritis and other causes, and become so weak that they fracture. Compression fractures of the spine can be quite painful. The patient can hunch over and look shorter than before the broken vertebrae.

People who seek effective treatments for pain can contact us at (888) 262-3864. The safety, health, and wellness of our patients are high priorities at WestCare Pain Clinic. It is our mission to help people live meaningful lives without pain.


What Are the Side Effects of Steroid Injections and How Likely Are They to Occur?

We offer steroid injections as an effective treatment for many different conditions. Patients often ask us if steroid injections have side effects, and how likely they are to occur. Every medical procedure has some risk of side effects, but steroid injections seldom cause problems for the patient. At WestCare, we carefully evaluate patients to determine whether they are good candidates for steroid injections. We evaluate how likely the patient is to benefit from the injection and the risk of complications.

An Overview of Steroid Injections

According to the Mayo Clinic, doctors administer steroid injections to reduce inflammation and relieve pain in a localized area of the body. Most steroid injections, also called cortisone shots, go into a joint. Large joints like the hip or shoulder, and medium-size joints like the knee, elbow, wrist, ankle, or back can get steroid injections. Sometimes people get relief from cortisone shots in smaller joints located in the hands or feet.

The injection itself is typically a local anesthetic and a corticosteroid medication. The local anesthetic takes care of immediate discomfort, and the steroid works over time to reduce inflammation and pain. The injection procedure usually only takes a few minutes. Steroid injections are outpatient procedures that doctors perform in their offices, ambulatory surgical centers, or hospitals.

Possible Side Effects from Steroid Injections

Minor, temporary side effects, like facial flushing and a feeling of warmth, happen to some people after a steroid shot. More significant reactions are rare. Damage to the tissue in and around the injection site usually only happens after a person has a large number of injections into the same area without waiting long enough between shots.

Because injections administer the steroid locally only to the affected area, as opposed to taking steroid pills that would distribute the substance throughout the entire body, injections generally are a safer method of treating pain and inflammation than oral medications. In patients with diseases or injuries that leave them with extreme pain and inflammation, steroid pills might still be necessary in addition to steroid shots.

Doctors limit the number of steroid injections into a joint to minimize the risk of side effects. The Mayo Clinic says that cortisone shot side effects can include:

  • Nerve damage
  • Damage to cartilage in the joint
  • Infection of the joint
  • Death of bone close to the injection site
  • Thinning of nearby bone, also called osteoporosis
  • Discoloration of the skin at the injection site, turning light or white
  • Injection site thinning of skin and soft tissue
  • Rupture or weakening of a tendon
  • Temporary blood sugar elevation in people with diabetes
  • Temporary increase in swelling and pain in the joint for up to 48 hours, followed by relief from the temporary and chronic discomfort and inflammation
  • Temporary flushing and feeling of warmth of the face and chest

The typical limits of steroid injections are three or four injections a year, about six weeks apart or more. These limits are generalizations. The precise number of shots and time intervals will depend on many factors unique to each patient, like age, other medications, and underlying medical conditions.

It is essential to disclose all relevant information to the doctor to aid the assessment of your risk. Also, patients should follow the instructions from the doctor’s office about preparation before the injection and steps to take afterward to minimize the risk of side effects and maximize the benefits of the shot.

Some patients get long-lasting relief from their first steroid injection. Others do not see the results they wanted. Everyone responds differently to medical procedures. The guiding principle is to achieve the greatest benefits with the least risk. The Cleveland Clinic says that most people tolerate steroid injections well, and that they are one of the most effective treatments for certain types of pain.

Benefits of Steroid Injections

Steroid injections can reduce or eliminate intense pain, lessen inflammation, and allow a person increased function of the affected area. Usually, steroid injections do not cure the underlying condition, like arthritis, but they can alleviate some of the symptoms of the injury or illness. For some patients, the relief lasts for quite some time, while some other people only experience short-term benefits from the shot.

Epidural Steroid Injections

When spinal nerve inflammation causes intense pain and does not respond to other forms of treatment, an epidural steroid injection might be a viable option.

The epidural area is like a fatty insulation around the spinal cord and spinal nerves. The insulation protects the spinal cord and nerves from damage. The doctor uses a syringe to inject pain medicine into the epidural area at the level that controls the sensations for the area where the patient experiences ongoing pain.

Johns Hopkins University explains that injecting steroids into the epidural area can reduce inflammation in patients who have medical conditions that involve swelling in the spinal column. The back contains many narrow passages that nerves pass through on their way out of the spine to the arms, legs, and other areas of the body.

When there is inflammation in these narrow passages, nerves can get irritated or compressed, leading to pain. Left untreated, the pressure on a nerve could lead to weakness, chronic pain, and even paralysis.

Here are some conditions that can involve narrowing of the passages in the back:

Herniated, ruptured, or “slipped” disc. A disc is a gel-filled cushion between the vertebrae, which are the bones that run down the center of the back. If something pinches, compresses, or tears a hole in the disc, the gel-like substance can leak out and irritate the nearby nerves. The irritated surrounding tissue can swell, narrowing the passage through which the nerves travel out of the back.

    • Fractured vertebrae. When a bone in the spinal column breaks, a jagged edge can migrate outside of its intended location, even by a few millimeters. Because the anatomy of the back is so complex, a slight variation like that can impinge on the space where something should be. For example, the shifted bone fragment might intrude on space where the nerve is, squeezing the nerve into less space than it needs to have to function properly.


    • Bone spurs on the vertebrae or joints. Some medical conditions can cause a person to grow extra bone-like areas on the joints or vertebrae. Called bone spurs, these growths can be painful and can limit function.


    • Spinal arthritis is an inflammatory disease that involves inflammation and discomfort in the spine and joints. Inflammation in the back can be a vicious cycle because inflammation irritates nerves and surrounding tissues, which then swell, further compressing spinal nerves and causing more inflammation. Steroid injections do not get rid of the arthritis, but reducing the swelling and pain can stop the cycle of inflammation and discomfort.


    • Cysts in the joints of the back. Any abnormal growth in the joints of the back can cause inflammation, pain, and a loss of function. Cysts can compress spinal nerves, causing swelling and discomfort. As the cyst grows, the patient could develop paralysis or weakness in the part of the body the affected nerve serves.

    Epidural steroid injections rarely cause serious complications. The few people who have any side effects tend to experience one or more of these temporary symptoms: increased pain for a few days, difficulty sleeping, anxiety, and “steroid flush,” which is a feeling of warmth and flushing of the face and chest. Rare severe complications include nerve damage, paralysis, allergic reaction, bleeding, and infection.

    Other Conditions That Can Benefit from Steroid Injections

    Cortisone shots can provide effective pain relief for many different disorders, in addition to spinal issues. Here are some other conditions for which steroid injections can reduce inflammation and minimize pain:


    Bursitis is a disorder that affects the bursae around the joints. Bursae are little sacs that are filled with fluid. The Mayo Clinic says that the purpose of the bursae is to cushion the bones, muscles, and tendons near joints. When the sacs get inflamed, the patient has bursitis, a painful condition.

    It is possible to develop bursitis near the big toe, heel of the foot, and knee. The more common locations for bursitis, however, are the hip, elbow, and shoulder. For most people, the discomfort of bursitis goes away in a few weeks by resting the joint. Sometimes, bursitis does not heal on its own with rest, and a steroid shot can reduce the inflammation and pain.

    If you have a joint that looks red or swollen, feels stiff or aches, and hurts more with use or the application of pressure, you might have bursitis. The joint pain can become disabling. A person might lose the ability to move the joint. Some people get a rash on or around the joint. Sudden changes or worsening of the symptoms or a fever are reasons to see a doctor right away.

    Although people of any age can develop bursitis, the risk of the condition goes up with age. Repetitive motions can increase the risk of getting bursitis. People with diabetes, gout, or arthritis can make a person more likely to develop the condition. Steroid injections can provide relief from bursitis.


    Gout is a type of arthritis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), gout tends to attack only one joint at a time, but it does so with a vengeance, causing extreme pain. Often, gout focuses on the joint of the big toe. Other commonly affected areas are the joints of other toes, the knee, and the ankle. Gout is usually only on one side of the body.

    Gout can go into remission, but many people experience flares, when their symptoms return. There is no cure yet for gout.

    You might have gout if you have intense pain in one joint of the foot, knee, or ankle. Gout often causes noticeable swelling and redness in the affected area. The joint can feel warmer to touch than other areas.

    Hyperuricemia is a condition in which the body makes or retains too much uric acid. The uric acid can build up in tissues, fluids, and joints throughout the body. Hyperuricemia does not need to be treated unless it causes gout. Many people with hyperuricemia do not develop gout.

    Because gout is an inflammatory condition, many people find steroid injections to be a godsend when it comes to managing their pain and inflammation. Cortisone shots do not cure gout, but they can increase the quality of life when a person has a flare-up of the disease.


    Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, as MedlinePlus of the U.S. National Library of Medicine explains. Osteoarthritis is also called degenerative joint disease. A person with swelling and pain in one or more joints might have this condition. As the arthritis worsens, the person might have diminished ability to move the joint.

    Osteoarthritis (OA) sounds as if it would attack the bones, but it does not do so, at least, not directly. OA breaks down the cartilage in joints. Cartilage works like a shock absorber in joints. As we move, our bones would grind against each other at our joints if they did not have slippery tissue, cartilage, covering the ends of the bones and taking the force of the movement.

    Because OA causes deterioration of the cartilage, the bones eventually rub against each other. That rubbing causes damage in the joint, damage that can be permanent. Steroid injections can reduce the inflammation and discomfort of OA in affected joints.

    Psoriatic arthritis

    People who have the skin disease psoriasis can develop psoriatic arthritis. Not everyone with psoriasis will have this type of arthritis. There is currently no cure for psoriatic arthritis, but, like other forms of arthritis, the therapeutic goal is to manage the pain and inflammation.

    Flare-ups of the skin condition, which involves itchy patches of raised, red skin, do not always happen at the same time as flare-ups of psoriatic arthritis. The swelling, pain, and stiffness of psoriatic arthritis can range from mild to disabling. Steroid injections can help to manage the discomfort of this medical condition.

    Rheumatoid arthritis

    Many people confuse rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, but the symptoms are quite different. Unlike osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease. Autoimmune diseases involve the immune system attacking the body’s tissues. RA can happen in any joint throughout the body. RA usually affects more than one joint, unlike gout. The wrist and fingers are the most common locations for rheumatoid arthritis.

    When RA affects the joints, the person can experience stiffness and decreased function of the joint, as well as pain and swelling. Because it is an autoimmune disease, RA is not limited to the joints. RA can attack a person’s lungs, mouth, eyes, and other body parts.

    The cause of RA is unknown, but scientists suspect that genetics, hormones, and environmental factors could play a role in determining who develops this disease. There is no cure for RA yet, but medications and treatments like steroid injections can help a patient manage the swelling and pain.


    Many people incorrectly self-diagnose that they have arthritis when they actually have tendonitis, or the reverse situation. It is easy to understand this mistake since, as the Arthritis Foundation points out, tendonitis hurts near joints. To further muddy the picture, some forms of arthritis, like gout, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis, can cause tendonitis.

    Tendons hold muscles to bones. Your muscles could not move your bones without tendons. Athletes and people over the age of 40 are more likely to develop tendonitis than other people.

    The most common areas in the legs for tendonitis are in the ankle, knee, and calf. In the upper extremities, tendonitis tends to develop in the thumb, hand, wrist, elbow, bicep, or shoulder.

    Repetitive movements and sports injuries are some of the most common causes of tendonitis. Tennis elbow and pitcher’s shoulder are types of tendonitis, even if the patient did not develop the tendonitis from playing those sports. Steroid injections can provide relief to patients with tendonitis.

    Sports Injuries

    Cortisone shots can aid in the healing process for a variety of sports injuries by reducing the inflammation and managing the pain of the injury. When appropriate, steroid injections can get an athlete back on the playing field quicker than some other treatment options.

    At WestCare, our goal is to help you get the best quality of life possible so that you can stay active and healthy. Please call us to find out how we can help.


Yes, pain management can help with headaches and migraines. Whether you have acute headaches from a recent injury or chronic headaches like migraines, there is likely a pain management therapy that can improve your quality of life by reducing your pain.

The Benefits of Pain

Pain alerts your body to a problem that needs to be addressed. For example, if we did not feel physical pain, we would not know when a hand is on a hot burner and that tissue damage is occurring with every passing second.

When a person has a headache, there is a reason. Headaches can be symptoms of many different medical conditions, like dehydration, viral infections, diabetes, and low blood sugar.

An occasional, mild headache likely needs nothing more than rest and a couple of over-the-counter pills. You do not, however, want to ignore sudden, severe, or ongoing headaches. An excruciating headache could be an indication of a medical emergency like a stroke, cerebral aneurysm, or brain bleed, or a significant issue such as a tumor or cancer.

A doctor can evaluate you to look for the root cause of your headaches. Sometimes there is nothing you can do to stop triggering chronic headaches. By way of example, people who get regular headaches because of head injuries in the past cannot go back and undo the head injuries. That does not mean that they have to live in pain.

At WestCare Clinic, we have several different medical treatments that can reduce the pain of migraines and other headaches. The type of pain management treatment that is best for you will depend on many factors, such as the type of headache you have and the cause of the headache.

We tailor your pain management treatment plan to your individual situation. For example, migraines need a different treatment than cluster headaches. Some patients come to us after suffering for years because of unsuccessful treatments elsewhere. Because we specialize in the treatment of pain, we can offer treatments that doctors in other fields do not have. Our mission is to make your life better by taking away your pain. Call Westcare Clinic at (888) 262-3864 so that we can evaluate your symptoms and causes to see if we can develop a plan to treat your headaches and migraines.

The Effectiveness of Pain Management for Migraines and Headaches

The Mayo Clinic suggests that people consider multiple options for managing the pain of migraines. When treating migraines, the goal is to stop the symptoms during a migraine attack and prevent future attacks. Medications are one treatment option. Within prescription drugs, there are two types:

Drugs to Relieve the Pain of Migraines and Stop the Symptoms

For mild migraine pain, over-the-counter medications might provide some relief. Non-prescription options include aspirin, ibuprofen (Motrin and other brand names), and migraine compounds that combine acetaminophen, caffeine, and aspirin. When used for too long, the patient can experience side effects like ulcers, gastrointestinal bleeding, and “rebound” headaches.

Prescription drugs for migraine attacks vary, depending on the symptoms the individual patient tends to have. There are anti-nausea drugs for people who get nausea and vomiting with migraines. Prescription triptans can block pain pathways in the brain, but people with a risk of heart attack or stroke might not be able to take triptans safely.

Dihydroergotamines are used to treat people with migraine attacks that tend to last for more than 24 hours, but they need to be taken at the onset of the symptoms to be effective. Unfortunately, some people experience increased nausea and vomiting with these drugs, and people with kidney or liver disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), or coronary artery disease should not take this type of drug.

Lasmiditan is a newer drug that can decrease multiple symptoms of migraines, including nausea, pain, and sensitivity to sound and light. The drug can make a person dizzy and drowsy, so it should only be taken when a person does not have to drive or engage in other potentially dangerous activities for at least eight hours.

Ubrogepant can relieve migraine pain, light and sound sensitivity, and nausea. The drug takes a couple of hours to work effectively. People who take certain other prescription drugs, like CYP3A4 inhibitor drugs, should not take Ubrogepant. Some people get nauseated, have a dry mouth, and become extremely sleepy on this drug.

Some people take two types of medications together – usually pain medications and anti-nausea drugs. When a person has migraine headaches with aura, using two separate drugs can help to control the nausea and vomiting.

If a person cannot take other pain medications for migraines, opioid narcotic drugs might help. Drugs in which codeine is an ingredient tend to be particularly effective. Opioid drugs should be a last resort prescription drug because of the high risk of addiction.

Call Westcare Clinic at (888) 262-3864 to see if we can help alleviate your headaches and migraines.

Drugs to Prevent Future Migraines

People who suffer frequent migraine attacks might want to consider taking medications designed to prevent or reduce the number of migraine attacks. Preventative drugs can also be an option for people whose migraines are severe or last more than 24 hours. Some of the drugs can not only help the patient have fewer migraines, but they can also make the attacks less severe and shorter in duration.

Here are some of the prescription drugs used to prevent migraine attacks:

  • Botox injections. Some people get relief from Botox injections that they receive at intervals of about 12 weeks.
  • Antidepressants can reduce the number of migraines that some people get, but doctors usually avoid certain types of antidepressants because they can cause a person to gain weight and feel excessively sleepy.
  • High blood pressure medication can be effective in preventing some types of migraines. A person who gets migraines with aura might find good results from calcium channel blockers, while people with other kinds of migraines can do well with beta blockers.
  • Some anti-seizure drugs might reduce the frequency of migraine attacks, but they can have multiple side effects.
  • Monthly injections of some peptide monoclonal antibodies can reduce the number of migraines a person experiences. If a person has an adverse reaction, it is usually at the injection site.

These are but a few examples of the many prescription migraine treatments available, and scientists continue to discover new migraine drugs. At WestCare Clinic, we stay on the cutting edge of migraine therapies so that we can help our patients get rid of pain. Contact Westcare Clinic at (888) 262-3864 today.

Pain Management for Other Types of Headaches

A primary headache is a condition in which the headache is not from an underlying medical disease or condition. According to Stanford, the four most common types of primary headaches are:

  • Tension headaches. Migraines happen more frequently than tension headaches, but tension headaches are second in occurrence in the primary headache category. Tension headaches can be just as painful and debilitating as migraines. Tension and migraine headaches can happen together, or one can trigger the other. Tension headaches can respond well to pain management techniques of relaxation therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, muscle relaxants, and physical therapy.
  • Cluster headaches. Cluster headaches involve much more than multiple headaches within a relatively short space of time. Cluster headaches tend to last between 20 minutes and two hours. They are only on one side of the face. The patient can have a droopy eyelid, stuffy nose, enlarged pupil, and watery eye all on the same side. The clusters of the extremely painful headaches can continue multiple times a day for several days or weeks, only to return eventually. Because cluster headaches are short in comparison to migraines, doctors use faster-acting drugs and other therapies for these headaches.
  • Migraine headaches. These are the most common severe primary headaches. We have already discussed treatment techniques for migraines. Some people mistakenly think that migraines are psychological, but in reality, migraine headaches are a chronic disease with a genetic origin. If other people in your family have migraines, you have a heightened risk of developing migraines as well. Some migraines have an aura, which are warning signs like visual disturbances. For other people, the migraine starts abruptly with intense pain on one side of the head. Many people get nausea and vomiting with migraines and have sensitivity to light and sound.
  • Hypnic headaches. This type of headache is the least common of the top four primary headaches. Hypnic headaches only happen at night, and usually at the same time. These headaches tend to happen on both sides of the head and last for 15 minutes to an hour. People younger than 40 and older than 80 usually do not experience hypnic headaches. Because of their unusual nature, hypnic headaches usually do not respond well to headache medicines for migraine, cluster, or tension headaches.

Secondary headaches are situations in which the headache is the result of a separate medical condition. Typically, secondary headaches come on suddenly, without warning, and without a history of severe headaches. The pain can be excruciating. Because secondary headaches can be an indication of a life-threatening condition, one should consider them a medical emergency. These conditions can trigger secondary headaches:

  • An injury to the neck or brain
  • Brain tumors
  • Meningitis, which is an inflammation of the brain from a viral or bacterial infection
  • Aneurysm, which is a defect in a blood vessel in the brain. If a brain aneurysm ruptures, it can be fatal or cause significant damage to brain tissue.

For a sudden severe headache “out of the blue,” a person should get immediate medical attention.

Pain Management Treatments for Treatment-Resistant Headaches

With primary and secondary headaches, it can feel as if the brain hurts. Many people are surprised when they learn that the brain cannot feel pain. The pain of a headache is actually from inflammation of the nerves, muscles, and blood vessels in the head and neck.

Not everyone responds well to the types of treatments we have discussed above. For some people with headaches that do not get adequate relief from these standard headache treatments, there are some additional options to try after exploring less invasive therapies. A doctor can discuss your treatment possibilities and evaluate many different factors to determine the best therapy for you.

Here are some pain management treatments for headaches that do not respond well to other therapies:

Sympathetic Nerve Block

The sympathetic nervous system controls involuntary body functions. These nerves run from the spine to various areas throughout the body. Johns Hopkins University explains that involuntary body functions are things that you cannot control even if you tried, like digestion, perspiration, and the flow of your blood. There is some evidence that blocking specific sympathetic nerves can effectively control chronic pain.

Sphenopalatine Nerve Block

The American Migraine Foundation, a non-profit organization that focuses on migraine research and awareness, reports that sphenopalatine nerve blocks can treat migraines and cluster headaches. The trigeminal nerve is the main nerve instrumental in headache disorders. The sphenopalatine ganglion (SPG) is a group of nerve cells behind the bony aspects of the nose. The SPG is closely involved with the trigeminal nerve. The signal of headache pain travels along nerves that pass through the SPG. After having an SPG nerve block, the pain signal gets disrupted or blocked before it can cause the person to feel pain.

Occipital Nerve Block

The American Migraine Foundation says that occipital nerve blocks (ONBs) can suppress certain types of chronic headaches. Migraines and some other headaches can start with inflammation of the occipital nerve at the base of the skull. The pain then moves forward on one or both sides of the head. ONBs seek to interrupt the pain messages that travel along the occipital nerve. Some patients find ONBs far more effective than any kind of pills for preventing chronic headaches.

Complementary Medical Treatments for Headache Pain

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) says that some complementary approaches can help relieve or prevent headaches. The NIH’s National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) evaluated the usefulness of these treatments and offered this guidance:

  • Acupuncture can be effective for treating headache pain.
  • Some studies suggest that biofeedback can help treat migraines and tension headaches.
  • Massage and relaxation techniques might be effective, but the NIH wants more research on these therapies for treating headaches.
  • These complementary methods of treating headaches are generally safe.
  • Some dietary supplements range from effective to possibly effective for treating or preventing migraines and tension headaches. Supplements the NIH evaluated include butterbur (effective for reducing the severity and frequency of migraines), Coenzyme Q10 (possibly effective for preventing migraines), feverfew (probably effective for preventing migraines), magnesium (probably effective for migraine prevention), and riboflavin (probably effective at preventing migraines).

The NCCIH is currently running research studies on whether acupuncture or meditation can be effective treatments for migraine and other forms of headaches.

How to Avoid Headache Triggers

Different stimuli can trigger headaches in different people. Here are some common headache triggers:

  • Eye strain from using computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices for many hours a day.
  • Postural causes, like sitting at a desk or computer without high-quality ergonomic design or holding the head or neck at an awkward or uncomfortable angle.
  • A noisy environment, like working in a factory, daycare center, or construction site.
  • The stress of daily life can lead to chronic headaches.
  • A person who usually does not get headaches can suffer acute headaches from relatively short-term stress like job loss, divorce, or serving as a caregiver.

Whatever causes your headaches, you do not have to resign yourself to a life of throbbing pain. You deserve a better life than that. Pain management can be the answer for many different types of headaches. Call Westcare Clinic at (888) 262-3864 to see if we can help your headaches and migraines.

Who Might Be a Good Candidate for Pain Management for Headaches and Migraines?

A person who struggles with ongoing headaches and wants to prevent them or reduce their frequency and intensity could be a good candidate for pain management. Some people mistakenly think that pain management only means taking pain pills, but nothing could be further from the truth.

When there is a treatable cause of headache pain, we try to find it and fix it. When the cause is unknown, or the condition does not have a cure, we can work with you to design a treatment plan that will improve your quality of life. You do not have to go through the rest of your life having to choose between being groggy from sedatives or in excruciating pain. You have many options besides heavy-duty tranquilizers.

Our mission at WestCare Clinic is to help our patients get their lives back and be able to enjoy life again. Pain can get in the way of a person’s physical and social activities, relationships, accomplishments, career success, and many other things that make life worth living. Modern medicine provides more treatment possibilities than ever before. We can craft the treatment plan that works best for you. Call us today at (888) 262-3864 to see if we can help

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