The evidence is limited because it’s still new, but stellate ganglion blocks are a promising treatment option for those with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Every year, 5% of adults in the United States are living with the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. PTSD is a mental health condition that can develop after stressful or traumatic events, such as accidents, assaults, abuse, combat, or other traumatic triggers.

When someone has PTSD, the physical and emotional symptoms can make day-to-day functioning more challenging, but treatment options like therapy and medication can help. Stellate ganglion block (SGB) is one treatment option that research suggests may help manage PTSD symptoms.

This article discusses what a stellate ganglion block is, how it’s used to treat PTSD, and what you need to know about treatment side effects, costs, and coverage.

Stellate ganglion block (SGB) treatment involves injecting a local anesthetic into the stellate ganglion nerves. The stellate ganglion consists of a collection of nerves that lie on both sides of the voice box at the front of the neck.

Typically, doctors use SGB to treat conditions involving the sympathetic nervous system, including those affecting the nerves and circulation. Some of these conditions include complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), phantom limb pain, post-stroke, heart attack, surgery pain, and even shingles.

Over the past few decades, several studies have explored the use of stellate ganglion blocks to help reduce the symptoms of PTSD. However, the research results are mixed.

Clinical evidence

In one clinical trial from 2019, researchers explored the effect of two SGB treatments on PTSD symptoms in active-duty service members.

Study results found that two SGB treatments administered 2 weeks apart effectively reduced PTSD symptoms over 8 weeks. While both mild and moderate symptoms improved with treatment, researchers saw the biggest effect in those with higher symptom severity.

Another review on SGB for PTSD published in 2021 found mixed results, with only one trial showing strong evidence of SGB being effective for PTSD symptoms. However, a more recent review from 2023 found that even with limited research, overall, SGB appears to show some effectiveness in treating PTSD.

But what is the underlying mechanism behind using a stellate ganglion block for PTSD? While researchers still are not sure why SGB alleviates PTSD symptoms, one theory involves the connection between the nerves and the brain.

According to experts, SGB reduces norepinephrine ― one of the “fight-or-flight” hormones ― which in turn may reduce the hyper-arousal that’s common in people with PTSD.

Does a stellate ganglion block cure PTSD?

While there is no definitive cure for PTSD, the right treatment approaches can help someone manage their symptoms long term.

Even though studies have shown SGB to be a possible option in treating PTSD, there’s no evidence to suggest that it can cure the condition. Instead, it’s better used as an adjunct or alternative treatment option for PTSD when other treatment approaches are not effective.

Learn more about other treatments for PTSD.

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As with any nerve block treatment, SGB can potentially cause side effects. Some of these potential short-term side effects can include:

In some cases, severe side effects can occur, including infection, nerve damage, or a punctured vein, artery, or organ. However, doctors usually perform this procedure with the help of imaging equipment ― like an ultrasound ― to help reduce the risk of these serious side effects.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved stellate ganglion block to treat PTSD, so the cost and coverage of this treatment varies.

If you’ve been in treatment for PTSD and have not seen improvement with traditional treatment approaches, your insurance plan may cover SGB therapy. But you’ll need to reach out to your insurance company directly to find out more since coverage rules for treatments vary between plans.

Without insurance, the out-of-pocket cost for an SGB also varies, with online estimates ranging from $500 per injection to upward of $2,000 for two injections.

A stellate ganglion block is a type of nerve block that targets the stellate ganglion, a collection of sympathetic nerves near the front of the neck. In addition to treating chronic pain conditions, some research suggests that SGB may be an effective adjunct treatment option for PTSD.

If you’re interested in learning more about SGB for your PTSD symptoms, consider talking with your doctor. They can help you determine the right treatment approach for your PTSD.

Treatment can help you better manage your PTSD symptoms long term.