Lumbar sympathetic blocks are a non-surgical treatment used to block the sympathetic nerves which are a part of the sympathetic nervous system. To block these nerves, an injection of a local anesthetic (lidocaine or bupivacaine) and/or steroids is placed in the back on either side of the spine. The anesthetic may reduce pain and swelling in the lower extremity and may improve mobility.
The procedure involves inserting a needle through skin and deeper tissues. The skin and tissues are numbed with a local anesthetic using a very thin needle before inserting the actual block needle. The local anesthetic wears off in a few hours. However, the blockade of sympathetic nerves may last for many more hours, days or weeks. Usually relief time gets longer after each lumbar sympathetic block. If there is a response to the first injection, repeat injections are recommended. For most patients, a series of injections is needed to treat the problem. Some will need only two to four and some may need more than 10. Response varies from patient to patient.