If you’re suffering from pain and PTSD, you should know that there’s a treatment option out there that could help. Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB) is an effective procedure for treating both conditions.
SGB is a type of nerve block that uses local anesthesia to reduce pain signals to the brain. The procedure involves inserting a catheter into the stellate ganglion—a mass of nerves at the base of your neck—and then injecting lidocaine into it. This blocks the peripheral nerves leading to your brain, which reduces your perception of pain and limits the number of stress hormones released into your bloodstream by the sympathetic nervous system.
The main benefit of SGB is that it’s minimally invasive. Instead of having surgery or taking medication daily, you need one injection and a few hours in the hospital or doctor’s office. Then, you can get back to your routine right away!
Let’s explore the stellate ganglion block effects and benefits!
Nervous male military suffering depression, sitting alone at home, PTSD concept
What is PTSD?
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that can affect people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. Statistically, about 5 out of 10 women and 6 out of 10 men have or will experience one trauma in their lifetimes.
When it comes to PTSD in the American population, the following statistics apply:
- 6% of the population, or around 6 out of 100 individuals, will experience PTSD at some point in their lifetimes.
- In the United States, almost 12 million adults experience PTSD each year. This is a very small percentage of people who have experienced trauma.
- Compared to around 4 out of 100 men (4%), about 8 out of 100 women (8%) have PTSD at some point in their lives.
To understand how PTSD develops, it’s helpful first to understand what happens in the brain during trauma. When we experience a traumatic event – whether it’s a car crash, a physical assault, or another form of violence – our bodies release chemicals called neurotransmitters into our bloodstream. These chemicals are designed to help us respond quickly to danger and save ourselves from harm. But when our brains are flooded with too many neurotransmitters, they can become overwhelmed and unable to function properly.
When this happens, the brain begins to rewire itself in ways that cause it to misremember past events and imagine future events that haven’t happened yet. It also causes your body’s stress response system to stay on high alert longer than it should. And all of these changes happen without your control or even awareness—they’re just part of how your body responds to trauma situations, even when they’re not happening right now.
People with PTSD have symptoms that can be broken down into three categories:
- Re-experiencing the trauma: This category includes flashbacks and nightmares. It also includes other ways of experiencing the trauma again in their minds, such as feeling like they are back in the stressful situation, having strong emotions about it when it’s brought up, and feeling like they’re reliving the experience over and over again.
- Avoidance: This category includes avoiding situations that remind you of your trauma, avoiding feelings related to your trauma, avoiding thoughts related to your trauma, etc.
- Arousal and reactivity: This category includes being easily startled or upset by things that remind you of your trauma, for example, loud noises, having trouble sleeping, or concentrating because of memories or thoughts related to your trauma. These can include thinking about how you were hurt, and being easily irritable or angry, such as getting mad at someone who says something insensitive.
What is the Stellate Ganglion?
The stellate ganglion is a small collection of neurons that sits at the base of your neck. It’s known as an autonomic ganglion, which helps to regulate your body’s autonomic nervous system—the part of your nervous system that controls things like your heartbeat and digestion, as well as processes like sweating or shivering.
The stellate ganglion is responsible for sending signals to the brain that cause you to feel pain in response to injuries and other stimuli. Because of this, it can be responsible for chronic pain – like joint degeneration – and acute pain from broken bones or burns.
The stellate ganglion block effects include playing a role in regulating sleep patterns, which makes it important for people with PTSD because they often struggle with insomnia and other sleep disorders.
The stellate ganglion functions as an emergency response unit: when you’re stressed or scared, it sends out hormone-like chemicals called catecholamines that activate fight-or-flight responses such as increased heart rate and blood pressure. These responses help protect you from danger by making you stronger and faster so that you can either fight or run away from it (hence the name “stellate”).
What is Stellate Ganglion Block Used For?
Getting a nerve block sounds scary, but it’s a very effective treatment for pain and PTSD. It can help you get back to living your life again. Stellate ganglion blocks get used to treating pain related to various conditions, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), spinal cord injury, cancer, soft tissue injury, and fibromyalgia.
In some cases, the stellate ganglion block gets done in conjunction with other types of nerve blocks. This will depend on whether or not the stellate ganglion block effects are effective on their own or if it needs the support of another kind of treatment. In general, though, this type of nerve block is used alone to treat pain and PTSD.
Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB) is a procedure that uses a local anesthetic to numb this nerve center. The anesthetic blocks pain signals from reaching the brain, allowing your body to use its own natural painkillers to reduce inflammation and swelling.
This procedure can be done in the doctor’s office under local anesthesia or with sedation if you have severe chronic pain or PTSD. It involves injecting the medication into a vein in your arm or leg and sometimes using ultrasound to guide it into place.
Many patients report feeling immediate relief from their symptoms after SGB treatment, though it may take several days for them to subside fully. The stellate ganglion block success rate is between 70-75% and has low negative outcomes.
Can Stellate Ganglion Block effects be adverse?
Stellate ganglion block effects are extremely low. However, there might be bruising or pain where the injection was made. Serious side effects are rare, including infection, bleeding, and nerve damage.
Mild Stellate Ganglion Block effects include:
- Bloodshot/red eyes
- Nasal congestion
- Experiencing a lump in your throat
- Having trouble swallowing
- Your arm or hand may feel warm or tingly
- Hoarse voice
- Droopy eyelids
With time, these adverse Stellate Ganglion Block effects will disappear.
Signs of Successful Stellate Ganglion Block
What are the signs of a successful stellate ganglion block? When you have pain and PTSD, it can be difficult to know if the stellate ganglion block has worked. You can expect to see a reduction in both symptoms within a few days of the procedure.
The best way to tell if stellate ganglion block has worked is to take note of your pain levels. If they are reduced by at least 50%, then you know that the procedure was successful.
You should also track how many days of the month you feel better. If those numbers go up, then you know that something is working. Results can last months to years!
If you are still experiencing pain after a few days, it could be that not enough medication was used or that your doctor did not inject enough medication into your stellate ganglion. There is also possibly an issue with your procedure. You should talk to your doctor about getting another one done.
Are You a Candidate for SGB Treatment for Pain or PTSD?
If you have gone through a traumatic event and have been diagnosed with PTSD or chronic pain, you may be a good candidate for the stellate ganglion block treatment. Living with this condition can be debilitating and significantly affect your life, but there is a solution. Don’t suffer from the physical and emotional effects these conditions cause you, and start living a healthy life today.
Dr. Sudhir Rao and Dr. Jyothi Rao are a brother and sister duo who are board-certified Stellate Ganglion Block specialists dedicated to their patient’s health and wellness. With more than 40 years of combined experience, we ensure our patients are comprehensively examined and cared for, leaving no stone unturned.
In addition, we ensure that each patient has sufficient after-care follow-ups, providing a cohesive experience for all!
SGB Docs Locations
SGB Docs has locations in the states of Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. To find a location near you, click here. We can’t wait to meet you!
Please don’t hesitate to contact us for more information regarding our SGB injection services.
SGB Docs Affiliate Partners
SGB Docs is a proud affiliate of Shakthi Health and Wellness Center in Maryland, where patients receive alternative medicine treatments. Their comprehensive treatment programs are developed to target your condition’s underlying causes while fostering overall health and wellness.