UC Irvine Pain Medicine Center

Head and Facial Nerve Blocks

Sphenopalatine Ganglion Block

The sphenopalatine ganglion sends small branches of nerves to the head and face. It is located in the posterior, or back, portion of the nasal cavity. This technique of the sphenopalatine block focuses on the application of pain-relieving medications close to this large bundle of nerves. There are several approaches to perform this type of block successfully; however, most are performed through the posterior, or back of, the nasal cavity. Secondary approaches might include through the mouth or on the side of the face.

A numbing solution will be applied to reduce pain and discomfort during the actual procedure. A special type of x-ray, called fluoroscopy, is used to direct the exact area of the injection. After this, the medication will be applied via cotton-tipped applicators to the soft tissues in the back of the nose. This procedure usually takes only about 20 to 25 minutes.

Occipital Nerve Block

The occipital nerves arise from the upper portion of the spinal cord and travel up towards the back of the skull. Patients that suffer from pain primarily in the back of the head may benefit from interventional pain therapy of these nerves.

During the Occipital Nerve Block procedure, a numbing medication will be applied to the back of the head prior to insertion of a small needle that will be used to place pain medications close to the occipital nerves. At times, a small amount of pressure or tingling might be experienced as the needle approaches the nerve. The procedure usually takes less than 10 minutes to perform.

Trigeminal Nerve Block

The trigeminal nerve is composed of several branches that supply sensation and motor function to the face. This important nerve has three divisions, which send several nerve branches all over the head, face and upper neck.

A Trigeminal nerve block is done for patients that are experiencing Trigeminal Neuralgia, which may be the cause of shock-like electrical pain in the face. Under guidance of a fluoroscopy x-ray, a small needle will be placed adjacent to the trigeminal nerve branch. The patient may feel a small amount of pressure or tingling as the needle approaches the nerve. This procedure usually takes only 10 minutes to perform.

Temporomandibular Joint Injection

The trigeminal nerve branches supply nerves to the temporomandibular joint. These nerves are essential to muscle movements in the jaw.

To locate the exact location of the injection to the temporomandibular joint, our pain experts might ask the patient to open and close the mouth several times. After the joint is identified, a numbing medication is injected with a small needle into the joint region. Then the actual joint injection is done. This is typically a quick procedure and usually takes less than 10 minutes to perform.

Supraorbital Nerve Block

The supraorbital nerve is a small nerve that provides sensation to the scalp, forehead, and upper eyelid. When these nerves are irritated the patient may experience muscle spasms, trigeminal neuralgia, TMJ or other issues. Many patients describe the pain as a constant or intermittent headache. Because of this, some patients might benefit from local injection of pain medications adjacent to this nerve.

A numbing solution is provided over the site of injection. Next, a small needle is directed next to the nerve and a small amount of pain medicine is injected to cover the area. This procedure is very safe and usually takes under 10 minutes to perform.

Supratrochlear Nerve Block

The supratrochlear nerve is a small nerve, which branches off of the trigeminal nerve. The nerve fibers provide sensation to the portions of the scalp, forehead, and upper eyelid close to the nose. When the supratrochlear nerve is damaged, the patient may begin to experience headaches and pain.

Some patients might benefit from local injection of pain medications adjacent to this nerve. A numbing solution is provided over the site of injection. Next, a small needle is directed next to the nerve and a small amount of pain medicine is injected to cover the area. This procedure is very safe and usually takes under 10 minutes to perform.