Nerve Blocks For Shoulder Pain: Arthritis Treatment Options

Blocking Shoulder Pain With Nerve-Numbing Shots

Shoulder bones, cartilage, and tendons can be vulnerable to strenuous physical activity and repetitive movement. With age, the soft tissues and cartilage surrounding the shoulder can degrade. A lack of cartilage can cause pain as the bone ends create friction. A once flexible shoulder can become tender and painful. Thankfully, a treatment called a nerve block may help.

Arthritis of the shoulder

Arthritis refers to inflammation of the joints. In affected shoulders, the inflammation can cause pain, stiffness, and limited range of motion. Arthritis of the shoulder can’t be cured. Instead, a variety of treatment options can manage the pain. Nonsurgical treatment includes rest, icing, dietary supplements, physical therapy, and NSAIDs.

What’s a suprascapular nerve block?

Nerve blocks relieve pain by blocking pain signals send to the brain. A suprascapular nerve block is an injection with local anesthesia and steroids injected in the affected area. Surgeons use fluoroscopic x-rays or ultrasonic guidance to determine the best needle placement.

What’s an interscalene block?

An interscalene nerve block is the most common type used for shoulder surgeries. The injection blocks pain in the first part of the brachial plexus. The patient will lie down with a slightly elevated back and the head turned away from the blocked shoulder.

What’s a supraclavicular block?

A supraclavicular block is used in shoulder surgeries. A patient will lie flat on the back. With a head turned away from the blocked shoulder, the medication is administered. Surgeons may use nerve stimulation to locate the affected nerve. The block may be applied in a single dose or a catheter for continuous doses after surgery.

What’s an axillary nerve block?

Most axillary nerve blocks are performed in combination with a suprascapular block. The addition can help reduce the pain after surgery. The patient will remain in a sitting position or lying down on one side.

Nerve block risks

Nerve blocks carry minor risks such as bleeding or infection at the injection site. In the wrong hands, nerve blocks can spill into other areas or strike the wrong nerve. In capable hands, however, nerve blocks are a safe and effective treatment for shoulder pain due to arthritis.

Nerve block benefits

Nerve blocks are a more effective alternative to opioids. Nerve blocks for the shoulder can reduce the risk of opioid dependence after surgery and many opioid side effects such as fatigue, nausea, and sedation. Patients with chronic shoulder pain can ask a specialist about shoulder nerve blocks in the treatment of arthritis.


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