Stellate ganglion blocks can be an incredibly useful and fast-acting treatment to help with a variety of mental health conditions. This innovative treatment method can be used as a solitary treatment or with many other mental health interventions on the path to recovery.

But what is a stellate ganglion block, what does it treat, and how can you incorporate it into your overall mental health treatment plan?

The Stellate Ganglion

The stellate ganglion is a small bundle of nerves located at the front of your neck, right above the collarbone. The stellate ganglion acts as a pathway for the sympathetic nervous system — sending signals associated with the fight or flight response.

Not everyone has a stellate ganglion. For this structure to exist, two different ganglia need to fuse together. Researchers estimate that roughly 80% of the population have a stellate ganglion.

What is a Stellate Ganglion Block?

A stellate ganglion block is a brief outpatient procedure that administers a local anesthetic directly into the stellate ganglion. This anesthetic blocks the stellate ganglion from sending the fight or flight signals throughout the body, which can be incredibly therapeutic for people with mental health symptoms that lead to fear, anxiety, or stress.

For people with mental health disorders that lead to chronic overactivation of the sympathetic nervous system, this procedure can essentially provide a sympathetic nervous system reset. Not only can physical and mental health symptoms be rapidly reduced, but this procedure can help accelerate the process of different therapeutic methods.

What Do Stellate Ganglion Blocks Treat?

Stellate ganglion blocks are primarily used to treat anxiety and trauma-related disorders. Both of these mental health challenges are associated with heightened sympathetic nervous system activity, which a stellate ganglion block can rapidly reduce.

Stellate ganglion blocks have significant scientific support for treating trauma and anxiety disorders. While a stellate ganglion block isn’t permanent, returning to this state can help galvanize your resolve for recovery and help you take the steps toward lasting mental health without the severe disruption caused by your symptoms.

Symptoms of Anxiety

While there are a number of different anxiety-related mental health conditions, certain symptoms of anxiety are consistent throughout different types of anxiety disorders. Common symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Excessive worry
  • Sleep disruptions
  • Muscle tension
  • Panic attacks
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Hyperventilation
  • Inability to calm down or control worry
  • An impending sense of doom

People who live with an anxiety disorder can experience several of these symptoms, often every day or most days of the week. When the symptoms persist for extended periods and start to interfere with your everyday life, it’s likely that you meet the criteria for an anxiety disorder.

Symptoms of Trauma

Trauma is the emotional response to a terrible or catastrophic event. Most people will experience some form of trauma in their lifetimes, but not everyone who experiences trauma will go on to develop a trauma-related disorder.

In the short term, common reactions to trauma include:

  • Shock
  • Denial
  • A feeling of numbness
  • Emotional outbursts

These are completely normal reactions to abnormal situations. But when the symptoms of trauma persist for weeks, months, or years, it’s likely that you’ve developed a mental health condition known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

PTSD has its own unique set of symptoms, which fall into four distinct categories. Intrusive symptoms include:

  • Involuntary memories of the traumatic event
  • Nightmares or flashbacks
  • Distress when exposed to reminders of the traumatic event

Avoidant symptoms include:

  • Avoiding people, places, or objects associated with the traumatic event
  • Avoiding thinking about the traumatic event

Mood and cognitive alterations include:

  • Persistent negative mood
  • Feelings of detachment from others
  • Inability to experience positive emotions
  • Amnesia regarding the traumatic event
  • Inappropriate self-blame or guilt

Reactivity symptoms include:

  • Irritability
  • Exaggerated startle response
  • Hypervigilance
  • Sleep difficulties

Living with a PTSD diagnosis can make it exceptionally difficult to go about your everyday life without disruption. Left untreated, it can lead to damaged relationships, missed opportunities, and an overall worsened quality of life.

Some of the experiences that can lead to a diagnosis of PTSD include:

  • Sexual assault or rape
  • Military combat
  • Living through a war
  • Serious accidents
  • Abuse

PTSD has direct correlations with an overactive sympathetic nervous system. While a stellate ganglion block may not be a cure, it can vastly reduce many of the symptoms of PTSD and make the path to recovery much easier.

Difference Between PTSD and CPTSD

If you’re living with lasting effects from trauma, you may have come across the term complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD) while looking for more information on your symptoms.

The primary difference between CPTSD and PTSD is the source of the trauma. In general, people with PTSD have experienced a single traumatic event or several traumas in a relatively short period of time.

People with CPTSD, in contrast, have experienced chronic traumatization that extends for longer periods. This repeated traumatization can lead to a number of unique challenges and barriers to recovery. Some of the causes of CPTSD may include:

  • Torture
  • Kidnapping or slavery
  • Childhood abuse or neglect
  • Being a prisoner of war

Determining whether you have PTSD or CPTSD typically requires the help of a mental health professional, who can give you an accurate diagnosis and help develop a treatment plan to alleviate your symptoms.

How to Know if You’re Experiencing Trauma

While trauma disorders should always be diagnosed by a mental health professional, there are a few key indicators that you may be experiencing negative effects of trauma and could benefit from trauma therapy and treatment.

The simplest answer is that if living through a traumatic experience continues to cause you distress, worsens your quality of life, and interferes with your ability to work or go about your daily tasks, you’ve likely developed a trauma disorder.

Trauma treatment isn’t always a quick fix, but it can substantially improve your symptoms and help you return to living a better and healthier life.

Traditional Trauma and Anxiety Treatments

Traditional trauma and anxiety treatments typically fall into one of two categories: talk therapy and medication. Each of these styles of treatment has been used for decades and can provide tangible relief from your symptoms.

Anxiety therapy typically focuses on helping people recognize the source of their anxiety, teaching cognitive and behavioral strategies to help manage anxiety when it occurs, and assisting clients in making lifestyle changes that have been shown to reduce anxiety symptoms.

Trauma therapy offers many of the same services but also aims to reduce the reactivity to traumatic experiences through careful and controlled exposure. Certain therapies, such as eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing, can make this process simpler by using evidence-based techniques to help clients relax and delve deeper into a therapeutic session.

Medication for anxiety and trauma treatment takes a very different approach, instead attempting to control the symptoms of trauma or anxiety through the use of medication. This is typically done through a process known as medication management, where you work one-on-one with a psychiatrist to find what medications work best for you.

A number of different medications are used to treat anxiety and trauma-related disorders, though they typically fall into one of two main categories: antidepressants (such as Zoloft, Paxil, or Effexor) and anxiolytics (such as Valium, Ativan, or Klonopin).

Medication can be incredibly useful in reducing symptoms, but it doesn’t always address the underlying problem. While medication alone works for many, some people will need further treatment to achieve a lasting recovery.

How Stellate Ganglion Blocks Go a Step Further

By targeting the sympathetic nervous system directly, a stellate ganglion block is one of the most direct methods of anxiety and trauma treatment. With just a single, brief procedure, most people who receive a stellate ganglion block can feel an incredible weight off their shoulders almost instantaneously.

Traditional treatments are indirect approaches to treating the underlying problems of anxiety and trauma disorders. A stellate ganglion block is an intervention that is very direct, with fast-acting results that typically aren’t seen by conventional approaches.

And while a stellate ganglion block isn’t permanent, it can pave the way to a lasting and worthwhile recovery. Stellate ganglion blocks can be used in tandem with traditional treatment approaches such as therapy. They can rapidly accelerate the path to recovery by helping people break down barriers and obstacles to treatment that would otherwise take months with therapy alone.

Start Treatment at Plus by APN

Plus by APN was designed to give our clients a range of treatment options to help them with their mental health challenges. That means including the best of conventional trauma and anxiety treatments, as well as innovative approaches like the stellate ganglion block that can further enhance recovery.

By taking an integrated approach to mental health treatment, we give our clients every option available to start the road to recovery. Get started with treatment today by calling 424.644.6486 or filling out our online contact form for more information.


  • Peterson K, Bourne D, Anderson J, et al. Evidence Brief: Effectiveness of Stellate Ganglion Block for Treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) [Internet]. Washington (DC): Department of Veterans Affairs (US); 2017 Feb. Available from:
  • Rae Olmsted KL, Bartoszek M, Mulvaney S, et al. Effect of Stellate Ganglion Block Treatment on Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Psychiatry. 2020;77(2):130–138. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2019.3474