PUBLISHED10/14/2022

A doctor is giving a knee injection to a patient with his need in the air

What Are Genicular Nerves?

The word “genicular” is an adjective that essentially means relating to the knee. Therefore, genicular nerves can be easily defined as the nerves relating to your knee. In other words, genicular nerves are the collection of nerves that allow your knee to properly feel and move.

Genicular nerves include the superior medial, inferior medial, and superior lateral nerves. If any of the nerves in this cluster get damaged or irritated, you can experience knee pain.

What Is Genicular Nerve Block?

Now that you know what genicular nerves are and why your knee may be in pain, you may wonder what you can do to relieve that pain. Maybe your doctor has casually suggested a genicular nerve block, or maybe you have simply been looking online for knee pain treatments and stumbled across the term. Whatever the reason you are here, you are likely wondering, what is a genicular nerve block and what does it do?

Essentially, a genicular nerve block is a treatment that blocks the pain signals from your genicular nerves from transmitting through your nervous system by using a local anesthetic. In other words, this procedure numbs irritated nerves to relieve your pain.

Why Would You Get a Genicular Nerve Block?

Before you go off searching for how to get a genicular nerve block in Maryland or any other state you live in, you may want to know more about when a genicular nerve block would be an appropriate option for you.

There are two main reasons why people get a genicular nerve block. These reasons are pain relief and a diagnostic before opting for other, longer-lasting solutions to their pain.

To Control Pain

As mentioned briefly above, a genicular nerve block anesthetizes your nerves, blocking feelings of pain.

The process itself does not take long, approximately five to ten minutes in an office, and you will likely begin to feel some relief in around 15-30 minutes. We will get into how this procedure is done in more depth below, but essentially a local anesthetic will be injected into your knee so that it can affect the nerves that are causing you to feel pain.

If you are experiencing knee pain, this may sound like the perfect solution, but it is important to note that the amount of time your nerves are affected by the anesthesia will vary. Some people may only experience relief from their knee pain for a few hours, and others’ pain may be solved for good with a single injection, and there are plenty of people who fall somewhere between these two outcomes. Unfortunately, everyone reacts differently to this type of treatment, which is often not used as the final solution for knee pain. This brings us to the second reason you may elect to receive a genicular nerve block.

As a Diagnostic

Since these nerve blocks often only offer temporary relief for patients with knee pain, they are more commonly used as a diagnostic tool that helps your care team better assess what is causing your pain.

Because a genicular nerve block can target a particular nerve (or branch of nerves) at a time, it can be an extremely effective way to determine which nerve is causing you pain. Once this is known, your healthcare team will often be able to make more accurate diagnoses and come up with a treatment plan that will be more effective.

When used to target a specific nerve or branch of nerves at a time, the genicular nerve block process gets a little more technical. However, there is not much change to the overall process. Still, the main difference is that the healthcare professional performing the procedure will use X-ray fluoroscopy or an ultrasound to get the needle into the right branch of nerves. In other words, because they are trying to target a particular nerve, they need to be able to see into your knee, hence the X-ray device.

When genicular nerve blocks are used as diagnostics, they help your healthcare team determine which nerves are irritated or damaged so they can be treated. The preferred treatment after genicular nerve blocking is often radiofrequency ablation. We will explore this treatment later in this article.

What Conditions Can a Genicular Block Treat?

The simple answer to this question is that a genicular nerve block can help reduce the symptoms of any knee pain that originates from nerve pain. This said, there are a few common situations where this type of treatment may be recommended. These are chronic knee pain, knee osteoarthritis, and patients who have had knee surgeries or have chronic knee pain but are not candidates for surgery.

Chronic Knee Pain

There are many different reasons why you may be experiencing chronic pain in your knee or knees. Common causes of chronic knee pain include tendinitis, osteoarthritis, gout, or an injury. However, numerous other situations could cause chronic pain in one or both of your knees.

Knee Osteoarthritis

We mentioned osteoarthritis briefly in the possible causes of chronic knee pain. Still, as knee osteoarthritis is one of the most common reasons for receiving a genicular nerve block, it deserves its own section. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and commonly affects the joints in your hands, knees, hips, and spine — though it can affect any joint in the body. Osteoarthritis can also be referred to as a degenerative joint disease.

Essentially, knee osteoarthritis is arthritis that affects the knee joint. It is caused by wear and tear and can be a natural process of getting older, or it can result from a repeated knee injury.

Patients with Chronic Pain After Knee Surgery

Unfortunately, not all knee surgeries are successful. Whether you have received a full or partial knee replacement or another type of knee surgery, there is a possibility that you may still be experiencing pain in one or both of your knees. This pain can not only be annoying and inconvenient, but it can also become rehabilitating if left alone.

If you are still experiencing pain after knee surgery, a genicular nerve block may be a good option to help you locate where that pain is coming from and how to best treat it — without jumping into another surgery.

Patients with Chronic Knee Pain Who Are Not Candidates for Surgery

In general, surgery should be used as a “last resort” when solving pain. This is because surgery puts our bodies through a traumatic experience that can end up worsening pain in the long run.

Not all knee pain will be relieved through surgery, and not all patients will be eligible for or a good fit for certain surgeries. If you are experiencing chronic knee pain, but your healthcare team has ruled out surgery as an option, you may want to turn to other solutions. This solution could be a genicular nerve block. Genicular nerve blocks are much less invasive than surgeries and have fewer risks and side effects.

How Is a Genicular Nerve Block Performed?

A genicular nerve block procedure is quite simple. Essentially, your procedure will be conducted by an experienced medical professional who will inject a small dose of local anesthetics around your genicular nerves. This procedure will be done under an X-ray or ultrasound guidance to ensure that the right nerves are being targeted.

The entire procedure will usually take around five to ten minutes, and you should expect to feel at least a 50% reduction in pain after the injection. However, it can take some time for the injection to fully take root, so it can be best to wait up to 24 hours before determining whether or not the injection helped relieve your pain.

A doctor is giving a knee injection to a patient with his need in the air

What Is the General Process for Performing Genicular Nerve Blocks?

As we mentioned before, a genicular nerve block often does not provide a patient with a long-term or lasting result and serves to temporarily relieve pain. Because of this, medical professionals often use genicular nerve blocks to help better understand which nerves are causing the patient pain so that they can make more effective treatment decisions down the line.

This is why getting a genicular nerve block can be part of a long process that results in more long-term pain relief by using a different nerve treatment called radiofrequency ablation.

So, what does this elongated treatment process look like? The first step is getting a genicular nerve block to assess where the pain originates. Next, you will receive a second genicular nerve block procedure to confirm the result. If both genicular nerve blocks temporarily succeed in alleviating your pain, then you may be ready to move on to the next step to receive longer-lasting pain relief.

The third and final step is to move on to the genicular nerve radiofrequency ablation (RFA) procedure. Genicular nerve RFA is an effective and minimally invasive procedure that works to offer long-lasting pain relief for individuals with chronic knee pain — due either to a condition or surgery. This procedure uses a special needle that heats up to burn or stun the nerve or nerves causing you pain. This treatment typically results in pain relief for between six and twelve months, but the exact amount of time that the pain relief lasts will depend on the patient. This procedure can also be repeated when or if the pain returns.

How Long Does A Genicular Nerve Block Last?

Whether you are looking for how to get a genicular nerve block in Pennsylvania or California, you are likely wondering how long you could expect to have relief from your knee pain. It is extremely difficult to say how long a genicular nerve block will last because it depends heavily on the patient.

Some patients may get one genicular nerve block and never have knee pain again, and some may see their pain resurface after only hours of getting the treatment. There is no one-size-fits-all all solution for any type of nerve-related pain, and a genicular nerve block is no exception.

Benefits of Genicular Nerve Blocks

If you have been dealing with chronic knee pain for a while now, you may only really care about one thing when it comes to benefits: pain relief. Luckily, genicular nerve blocks do provide pain relief for chronic knee pain. Other benefits of this procedure include a more effective understanding of what is causing you pain and how to best proceed with further treatment to address the recurring pain.

What Are The Risks Associated with a Genicular Block?

Just like any other type of procedure, you should be aware of the risks associated with a genicular nerve block before seeking this type of treatment. Keep in mind your healthcare team will be able to give you more personalized recommendations on whether or not a genicular nerve block is a good option for you. They should also go over the possible side effects with you before any procedures begin.

The most common risks associated with a genicular nerve block are:

  • Misplaced needle
  • Unexpected bleeding
  • Infection
  • Allergic reactions to the drugs being used
  • Nerve damage
  • Worsened pain

It is important to note that all of the risks above are quite rare, and a genicular nerve block is a relatively safe procedure. Furthermore, if you are getting the procedure performed by an experienced and trustworthy professional, the likelihood of any of the risks mentioned above happening goes down even further.

Female pain management doctor reviewing a form with a male patient

Conclusion

Now that you have a better understanding of what a genicular nerve block is and how the procedure works, you may feel like getting this procedure may be a good option. Rather than spending time Googling “genicular nerve block Virginia” or “genicular nerve block clinic near me,” you may find it helpful to contact your current healthcare provider or a trusted pain management organization like Pain & Spine Specialists.

You can learn more about scheduling an appointment with us for knee injections here or find a nearby location to contact to get started on your personalized treatment plan.

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