The knee’s ability to feel and move comes from a complex network of nerves, called the genicular nerves, that travel through the knee. These nerves include the superior medial, inferior medial, and superior lateral nerves. Damage to any of these nerves or irritation can cause knee pain and require a genicular nerve block.
What Is A Genicular Nerve Block?
A genicular nerve block prevents the transmission of nerve pain signals from the knee to the brain. During the procedure, a doctor will inject a local anesthetic into the genicular nerves.
Who Needs a Genicular Nerve Block?
Genicular nerves blocks can be done to diagnose a condition and manage knee pain.
When done to manage knee pain, a genicular nerve block anesthetizes the nerves and blocks pain. Here’s how it works:
First, the doctor applies a topical cream to numb the skin at the injection site and minimize discomfort during treatment. Then, the doctor injects the medication and anesthesia. The entire procedure only takes five to 10 minutes in the office.
Patients can expect to feel pain relief in 15 to 30 minutes. However, the duration of pain relief can be unpredictable. Some patients experience relief for a few hours, some experience relief for a few days or weeks, and others enjoy permanent pain relief.
Because genicular nerve blocks typically only provide temporary pain relief, they generally aren’t considered a long-term treatment. A genicular nerve block done for diagnostic reasons can help identify the nerve causing pain and inform further treatment.
The nerve block procedure done for diagnostic reasons is the same as when done for pain management. However, a diagnostic genicular nerve block involves the use of X-ray fluoroscopy to guide the needle to the right spot and ensure the injection targets a specific nerve or branch of nerves.
If the injection stops the pain or significantly reduces it, then the doctor will know the exact cause of pain and have the information necessary to move on to treatment. Treatment may involve radiofrequency neurolysis, a procedure that uses heat energy to target the offending nerve and inactivate it.
Which Conditions Can A Genicular Nerve Block Treat?
Genicular nerve blocks can address the symptoms of knee pain caused by nerves. However, knee osteoarthritis is the most common condition treated by genicular nerve blocks. Knee osteoarthritis occurs as a result of cartilage in the knee wearing down after years of use. This causes bones to rub against each other, leading to inflammation that compresses the nerves. A genicular nerve block may help relieve pain and improve mobility.
Patients who have undergone knee replacement surgery in the past but still experience pain may benefit from a genicular nerve block. Or, patients who need knee replacement surgery but can’t undergo the procedure for various health reasons may also be good candidates for a genicular nerve block.
If you have chronic knee pain that hasn’t responded to conservative treatments, or if you would like to avoid surgery, a genicular nerve block may be a great treatment option.