What Is a Sciatic Nerve Block?

A sciatic nerve block may be administered to diagnose and treat a trapped sciatic nerve.
An MRI may be conducted to diagnose sciatic nerve pain.
A sciatic nerve block may be administered during foot surgery.
If the sciatic nerve becomes irritated, it can cause pain and numbness down the leg.
The sciatic nerve begins in the lower back.
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  • Written By: Tiffany Chambers Cole
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 26 January 2015
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A sciatic nerve block is an injection given by a medical professional to both diagnose and treat a trapped sciatic nerve, which can cause radiating pain in the buttocks and back of the legs down to the feet. The injection usually contains both an anesthetic and a steroid, the first to deal with the discomfort of the procedure and the second to treat the condition. A block, which also may be used to ease pain during knee surgery, works by preventing the nerve from sending pain messages to the brain. The underlying problem remains, but the patient no longer suffers because of it.

The sciatic nerve is the human body's largest, starting in the lower spinal cord and branching out to extend past both knees in the legs. Pain in the back of the thigh and elsewhere along the sciatic nerve's path can be the result of sciatic nerve irritation and is commonly referred to as sciatica. A doctor can diagnose the condition by observing a patient's symptoms and testing the function of the patient's nerves. X-rays and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) also can aid in a diagnosis. A sciatic nerve block also can be used as a diagnostic tool; if the pain disappears after a block is performed, it is assumed that the diagnosis of sciatica is accurate.


Treatment options include avoiding movements that further irritate the condition, medication, physical therapy and, in severe cases, surgery. A sciatic nerve block provides temporary relief of sciatic pain after the initial pain related to the procedure wears off. Local anesthesia is used to temporarily numb the nerve and help to ease the discomfort of the injection, which punctures both the skin and deep tissue before reaching the nerve. Pain may briefly return after the anesthesia wears off, because the injection site needs time to recover and the nerve-blocking steroid needs time to begin taking effect. While uncomfortable, sciatica sufferers often find it a small price to pay for the reward of suspended sciatic pain, even though the effects will eventually wear off and need to be repeated for the patient to remain free of pain.

Along with easing the discomfort associated with sciatica, a nerve block can reduce pain in other situations, too. Doctors frequently use a temporary nerve block when performing knee or foot surgery. It is considered to be a beneficial procedure because it limits the need for other painkillers, such as morphine, both during and after surgery.

A sciatic nerve block has a short recovery period and is less invasive than most surgeries. It remains similar to other medical procedures, however, in that it also has risk factors and the potential for complications. These include infection, allergic reaction and a possibility of increased pain if the nerve block proves unsuccessful.



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Can you have an allergic reaction to nerve block medication injected for the sciatic nerve?

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