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3 Indications for Stellate Ganglion Blocks: CRPS, PTSD, and Long-Haul COVID

3 Indications for Stellate Ganglion Blocks: CRPS, PTSD, and Long-Haul COVID

Long-term conditions like complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and long-haul COVID-19 can be difficult to treat. Symptoms of pain, fatigue, anxiety, headache, smell or taste difficulties, or brain fog make just getting through each day a challenge.

At Alpenglow Pain & Wellness, interventional pain management specialist Dr. Nichelle C. Renk offers stellate ganglion block (SGB) treatment from her Anchorage, Alaska, office. 

This procedure, which targets the main nerve controlling your sympathetic nervous system with injections of a long-lasting local anesthetic, shows promise as an effective treatment for CRPS, PTSD, long haul COVID, and more.

How SGB treatment works

Your SGB treatment targets the area at the right side of your neck where the cervical sympathetic chain of nerves is located, on either side of your voice box.

This two-way nerve conduit connects the parts of your brain that generate a fight-or-flight response to the rest of your body. By blocking nerve activity related to your sympathetic nervous system, Dr. Renk can effectively relieve symptoms like chronic anxiety, PTSD symptoms, or pain in your head, neck, upper arms, and upper chest.

SGB treatment also increases cerebral blood flow in your brain.

What to expect during SGB treatment

When you come in for an SGB procedure, Dr. Renk uses fluoroscopic guidance to deliver an injection of a solution containing a long-acting local anesthetic, low dose steroid, and sympathetic nervous system blocking medication. The procedure takes only about 5-15 minutes, and you could experience results within half an hour following your treatment.

You recline on a treatment table while Dr. Renk staff member cleans the area of your neck affected by the procedure. If needed, you can use intravenous (IV) medication to relax during your treatment. 

Dr. Renk inserts a thin needle to inject the local anesthetic solution, and then uses X-ray technology to place a second needle into a precisely targeted area and inject anesthetic medication.

SGB shows promise as a treatment for chronic conditions

With SGB treatments, you can address symptoms of chronic, hard-to-treat conditions, including nerve injuries and circulation problems. If you have indicators of any of the below conditions, Dr. Renk may recommend SGB treatment.

CRPS

Complex chronic pain conditions like complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), a debilitating disorder that causes severe chronic pain in one of your limbs or an area of your body, often don’t improve with conservative approaches like therapeutic exercise or pain management with over-the-counter pain relief medications. 

However, multiple studies show that your CRPS symptoms may be relieved after SGB treatment. SGB works for CRPS Type I or II.  SGB can help a patient with CRPS become more functional.

PTSD

After a traumatic event or experience, your brain may struggle to recover, resulting in post-traumatic stress disorder, which has mental health symptoms like chronic anxiety, flashbacks, or sleep disturbances. 

SBG treatment can break the negative loop of your PTSD, freeing you from symptoms like chronic anxiety and even phantom limb pain.

Long-haul COVID-19

For some portion of people who have had COVID-19, post-infection symptoms like exhaustion, smell or taste impairment, or brain fog can continue for weeks or months. This occurrence is known as long-haul COVID-19 or long COVID.

We’re still learning more about long COVID, but symptoms appear to have some similarities to those experienced by people with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). 

In cases of CFS, reduced cerebral blood flow may be a contributing factor, and studies show that SGB treatment, by increasing cerebral blood flow, can be used to alleviate the symptoms of long COVID.

The duration of your results with SGB treatment can last for several weeks or can be permanent for this indication. Patients typically need a series of injections for lasting symptom relief. After each subsequent treatment, you may notice your results lasting longer and longer.

To learn more about how SGB treatment could help you, get in touch with Dr. Renk at Alpenglow Pain & Wellness today. Schedule your initial consultation appointment over the phone, or request an appointment online.

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