I'm searching for some kind of relief from a whiplash injury. It's been six months since the accident, and I still have neck and arm pain. My doctor has suggested a numbing injection like novacaine. Would that help?

Studies show varied results with facet joint blocks, especially in the neck. The idea is to inject a numbing agent or local anesthetic around the nerve root to the joint. Since one joint can have two or three different nerve branches, finding the right one can be a problem.

Sometimes the patient gets immediate and long-lasting relief. In other cases there may be no relief at all. There are patients all along the continuum between those two extremes.

One good thing about selective nerve blocks in the cervical area is that the doctor can use imaging technology to make direct application. The anti-inflammatory and anesthetic go right to the target nerve root.

The idea isn't to give the patient a cure necessarily. The goal is to interfere with pain signals long enough for healing to take place. Research shows that therapeutic nerve block works well in patients who don't have neurologic damage.