What is a Genicular Nerve Block and Why Would I Need One?

Most people take their knees for granted. As long as they work properly, there’s no reason to think much about them. But, if a knee gets injured, begins to degenerate, or causes excruciating pain, they usually become the center of attention.

Whether you have an acute injury or a chronic condition, knee pain can bring your life to a screeching halt. Here at CHOICE Pain & Rehabilitation Center, with multiple locations in Maryland, our pain management specialists are very familiar with knee problems, and we may be able to get you moving again with a genicular nerve block. 

What are genicular nerves?

Your knee’s ability to feel and move comes from a complex network of nerves that feed into your knee. These nerves are called genicular nerves, and they include the superior medial, inferior medial, and superior lateral nerves. If any of these nerves get damaged or irritated, knee pain can result.

What’s a genicular nerve block?

Think of a genicular nerve block like the electricity in your house. If you want to stop the power, you switch off the main source, so the electricity never reaches the outlets inside your home. A genicular nerve block operates under the same principle. 

We inject a local anesthetic into the nerves that feed your knee, blocking the transmission of pain signals, just like turning off the main power source blocks electricity from going into your house. 

Why would you need a genicular nerve block?

Genicular nerves blocks serve two main purposes: pain control and diagnostic testing.

Pain control

As we mentioned, a genicular nerve block anesthetizes your nerves and blocks pain. Here’s how it works:

First, we numb your skin at the injection site, so you won’t feel any pain from the treatment. Then we inject the medication, which bathes your painful nerves with anesthesia. The process only takes 5-10 minutes here in our office.

You can expect to feel relief in 15-30 minutes, but how long the relief will last can be unpredictable. Some people experience relief for a few hours, others experience relief for days or weeks, and some find that one injection solves their pain for good.

Diagnostic tool

Because genicular nerve blocks typically only render temporary relief, they aren’t generally used as a long-term treatment. However, they do an excellent job of helping us identify exactly which nerve is causing your pain, so we can address the specific nerve.

The procedure is the same as when we administer a genicular nerve block for pain management, but we use X-ray fluoroscopy to guide the needle to the right spot, so we can target a specific nerve or branch of nerves. 

If the injection stops your pain or significantly reduces it, we know we’ve identified the culprit and can move on to treatment, which often means radiofrequency neurolysis. In this procedure, we use heat energy to target the offending nerve and inactivate it.

Which conditions can a genicular nerve block treat?

Genicular nerve blocks can reduce the symptoms of any knee pain that stems from nerve pain. However, knee osteoarthritis is the most common condition these nerve blocks are used for. With knee osteoarthritis, the cartilage in the knee wears down after years of use. As a result, bone ends up rubbing against bone and inflammation compresses the nerves. A genicular nerve block may be able to relieve the pain and allow you to become more mobile.

Furthermore, if you had knee replacement surgery in the past but still have pain, a genicular nerve block may relieve your symptoms. Or, if you need knee replacement surgery but can’t undergo the procedure for certain health reasons, a genicular nerve block may be able to give you relief. 

If you have chronic knee pain that hasn’t responded to conservative treatments, or if you know you need surgery but want to postpone it, a genicular nerve block may be right for you. To find out more, book an appointment online or over the phone with CHOICE Pain & Rehabilitation Center today.

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