In 1986 I learned about Sphenopalatine Ganglion Blocks from a patient who brought me the book, “Miracles on Park Avenue” and wanted me to find him a doctor who did the procedure in Chicago. I was amazed when I read the book and was dismayed when I could not find anyone in the Chicago area who did the procedure.
I learned the procedure from Dr Jack Haden in Kansas city that same year and I have used it ever since. Initially I did a lot of intra-oral injections through the greater palatine foramen because it was a “comfortable” injection for me to give in an area I routinely gave anesthetic. Later, I learned techniques for extra-oral injections which were initially outside my comfort zone. I have embraced them over the years for their ease and predictability. My Blog at www.SphenoPalatineGanglionBlocks.com has a wide range of information about Sphenopalatine Ganglion Block including indications and history of this “Miracle Block”.
I also took a while to be comfortable with doing the trans-nasal block because it was outside my aera of comfort. I have done thousands of these over the years and have adapted my techniques. In the beginning I always brought the patients in to my office for me to do the SPG blocks.
I have always had long-distance patients who traveled to see me for TMJ treatment and neuromuscular treatment and UI would teach my patients how to treat and eliminate their pain between visits with Travell Spray and Stretch techniques. This was life-changing for my patients who could now turn off severe head, neck and facial pain as well as migraine without a trip to my office. This was initially difficult because pharmacies did not understand the prescriptions and vapocoolant spray was often hard for patients to buy.
Over time, it became routine for me to automatically offer this to all patients. I would also teach them the basic principles so they could relieve pain anywhere in their body.
Empowering patients to take control of their pain without prescription medications resulted in better patient care, fewer visits both to my office and to other physicians and emergency rooms in hospitals.
I later began utilizing home ULF-TENS (Myomonitor) units to my patients for home use rather than just in my office and againfound a tremendous improvement in my ability to care for my patients and in their quality of life. The Myomonitor also acts as an at home on demand Neuromodulation device for the Sphenopalatine Ganglion. The Myomonito has over a 50 year safety record.
Every time I empowered patients to self-care I was rewarded with great patient appreciation for my efforts. The same level of pain relief with fewer doctor visits improved the quality of thei lives. Truth is, “Quality of Life Sucks when you are in a Doctor’s office or waiting in an ER.
Success rates for treatment improved with fewer visits and lower costs. This link is to videos of patients who have experienced SPG Blocks. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL5ERlVdJLdtlk8PbufsI0l_MzHo4oOb6g
I used the Sphenopalatine Ganglion Block initially only as a measure of last resort, when other treatments were not working well. My patients who received SPG Blocks taught me that they did better when I did the blocks and the number of visits decreased while their quality of life increased. I remember when I first began to teach patients how to self-administer it was with great trepidation and I did blocks twice a day in the office for two days before teaching them to self-administer because I was worried about adverse reaction, even though they never occurred. Twice a day administration drastically improved the positive effects of the blocks as the blocks appeared to have a cumulative action and increased exposure in frequency and duration increased effectiveness.
I no longer reserved these for patients with TMJ and Facial pain but began to use them for Anxiety, depression and for problems like dental phobias and that were either difficult to treat or resistant to treatment. Gradually, I began to teach self administration to all my patients and found they appreciated having control.
Recently several devices have received FDA approval for delivering anesthetic to the area of mucosa overlying the Sphenopalatine Ganglion and physicians began to bring patients in for a series of 10 treatments (every two weeks) for $750.00 per treatment or $7500 for a course of treatment. (Blue Cross / Blue Shield recently stopped paying for these blocks calling them experimental but in reality I think they became too expensive) These devices are the Sphenocath, the Allevio and the TX 360. All devices are expensive and a single use device costs a physician about $75.00.
When I teach patients to self-administer SPG Blocks I no longer use the cotton-tipped applicators but have switched to cotton-tipped catheters that supply continual capillary feed to the mucosa over the Sphenopalatine Ganglion. This has, in my opinion increased the effectiveness far beyond any of the commercial catheters.
The Sphenocath, the Allevio and the TX 360 are all basically “squirt guns” that shoot a small amount of anesthetic over the mucosa covering the Sphenopalatine Ganglion. Ideally patients will remain supine for 10-20 minutes to increase absorption time.
The cotton-tipped catheter in contrast delivers a continual flow of anesthetic to the mucosa and can be kept in place for 20 minutes to several hours and can be refilled as needed. Due to the continual flow there is no reason to stay supine (on back) but with acute severe pain an initial supine position may increse speed of onset. The size of the cotton-tipped nasal catheter is larger than the other devices and there is certainly cases where I use a Sphenocath or TX360 in my practice. If I teach self-administration I have my patients use the Sphenocath because it is reusable at home. The TX360 can esily be utilized for self administration but is a single use device only.
The cost to the patient of doing a bilateral SPG block with cotton-tipped nasal catheters after initial appointments is less than $1.00. This is an enormous cost saving to the patient and to insurance companies and makes it far less expensive than almost any of the prescription medications available for treating migraine and chronic daily headaches.
In addition there are virtually no side effects from medication. I generally use 2% lidocaine that is extremely safe and has anti-inflammatory properties.
The biggest savings is in time and medical expenses as patient no longer have to leave work for medical visits or suffer long ER waits and thousands of dollars of expense. The biggest savings is TIME. It is the one thing that if we spend it we can never get it back.
I usually will start the self-administration protocol as twice daily for multiple reasons. The two main reasons is it offers better immediate control of even severe pain and secondly if a patient is doing it twice daily they rapidly develop a high level of expertise and can do it without problems in the future. In patients with tight nasal passages they tend to become easier to navigate over time with repeated applications.
I have taught patients from across the United States as well as International patients how to Self-Administer Sphenopalatine Ganglion Blocks.
This link is to over 100 videos of patients treated with Neuromuscular Dentistry, Trigger Point Injections, Sleep Apnea Appliances and SPG Blocks: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCk9Bfz6pklC7_UluWFHzLrg/videos
I used to use SPG Blocks only for patients with the most difficult problems, I was wrong. I now believe it should be part of the diagnostic work-up for all headache patients before they receive medications and injections like BOTOX.
Chicago Metropolitan area has three airports: O’hare Airport, Midway Airport and Mitchell Field just south of Milwaukee. O’hare and Mitchell are the most convenient to my office. The office is also located on the North Line of Metra (Union Pacific to Kenosha) at the Fors Sheridan Train Station.