Treatment of acquired muscle spasticity using phenol peripheral nerve blocks

Orthopedics. 1995 Feb;18(2):151-9.


The use of phenol motor nerve blocks is advantageous in the early period of acquired spasticity (ie, that occurring following traumatic brain injury or incomplete spinal cord injury), when increased muscle tone is often the most severe. Because acquired spasticity is dynamic and usually improves slowly, a temporary treatment method used to ameliorate increased muscle tone is desirable. Phenol nerve infiltration provides a temporary motor nerve block that lasts for weeks or months. It allows passive limb mobilization in a comprehensive rehabilitation program that attempts to prevent fixed soft tissue contractures. Permanent or irreversible methods such as operative tendon lengthening, muscle release or recession, or neurectomy are usually best delayed until the spasticity has become static, when the need for surgical correction becomes more firmly indicated, and outcomes of operative intervention are more predictable. Although phenol nerve blocks were initially administered at the spinal cord level to control spasticity, the potential side effects have caused a loss of popularity of this method of administration. The safer and more common use of phenol infiltration at the peripheral nerve level is now more accepted for brain injury and spinal cord injury patients. This report reviews the indications, current concepts, and development of the different methods used to administer phenol nerve blocks. Comparisons to other methods to control spasticity are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autonomic Nerve Block* / instrumentation
  • Autonomic Nerve Block* / methods
  • Brain Injuries / complications
  • Brain Injuries / rehabilitation
  • Contracture / etiology
  • Contracture / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Muscle Spasticity / etiology
  • Muscle Spasticity / therapy*
  • Neural Conduction / drug effects
  • Phenol
  • Phenols*
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / complications
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / rehabilitation


  • Phenols
  • Phenol