Cancer Pain: Trigger Point & Nerve Block Injections | MedStarHealth
A nurse gives intravenous medications to a patient who is seated.

Cancer-related pain injections are used to treat pain associated with cancer and cancer treatment.

Types of cancer-related pain injections include:

  • Trigger point injections: treat muscle pain associated with pain trigger points or knots.
  • Nerve block injections: used to treat pain in a certain region of the body or organ that is associated with a specific nerve or group of nerves.
  • Neurolytic nerve block: used to treat pain associated with advanced stages of cancer by destroying the nerve endings causing pain.

Why pain injections are performed

Cancer can cause pain when tumor masses press on a nerve, or when cancer cells overrun organs or bones and destroy tissue. Cancer treatments like radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and surgery can also cause significant pain. Cancer-related pain ranges from mild and intermittent to excruciating and constant, depending on the type of cancer and the stage in which it has progressed.

What to expect during a procedure

A cancer-related pain injection procedure typically takes up to 1 hour to complete, including recovery and observation time. Before a pain injection procedure, patients are asked to lie face down on an X-ray table. An intravenous sedative may be administered to relax the patient. The area of injection is cleaned and then numbed using a topical anesthetic. The pain specialist uses X-ray imaging to ensure proper placement of the needle and injection of medication.

Risks associated with pain injections

The most common risks associated with cancer-related pain injections include:

  • Bleeding at the injection site
  • Infection of the injection site
  • Soreness at the injection site

Benefits of cancer-related pain injections

Cancer-related pain injections provide temporary pain relief for individuals who have been diagnosed with cancer. The amount of time the patient will experience pain relief will vary from patient to patient. Typically, pain relief from cancer-related pain injections can last from 1 month, to a few months; in the case of neurolytic injections, relief may last up to a year or longer. The ability to be pain-free, even for a short amount of time, increases an individual’s quality of life and allows him/her to continue normal daily activities and social activities.

Additionally, cancer-related pain injections offer pain relief that is targeted, allowing patients to avoid side effects like over-sedation, which are associated with systemic pain treatments like oral medications.

How to prepare

It’s important to follow all pre-procedure instructions given by the doctor and medical team to reduce the risk of complications. It may be necessary to refrain from eating or drinking starting the night before the procedure.

Additionally, pain injections may need to be scheduled around other cancer treatments. For this reason, it’s important for the patient to discuss his/her current cancer treatment with the pain specialist and medical team.

Post-cancer pain injection treatment

Patients should arrange to have someone drive them home after a pain injection procedure. The care team may also instruct the patient to refrain from exercise and other physical activity for a few days following the procedure. Pain relief will vary from individual to individual, depending on the severity and location of the pain. Some individuals will be pain-free for a few weeks, while others may have relief for several months.

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