Treat a wide variety of conditions affecting the spine with Epidural Injections.
Epidural injections have been used to ease pain since the 1950s. Today, the treatment is still considered an effective form of pain relief for many patients. Placed directly into the affected area, epidural injections are used to treat various forms of back, neck, and leg pain.
- The effects can last anywhere from several weeks to a year or more
- The temporary break from pain can allow patients to participate in rehabilitation programs without distracting discomfort
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How Epidural Injections Work
Typically delivered with a solution that includes a local anesthetic (usually lidocaine or bupivacaine) and steroid medication, epidural injections are placed into the area likely to be the source of pain. The injection is inserted into the dural sac that surrounds the spinal cord and nerve roots. Saline may be used as a flushing agent to remove materials around the affected area that tend to promote inflammation.
Why Injections Are Recommended
Injections aren’t part of initial treatment efforts for either acute or chronic pain. If a patient reaches a point where other forms of pain relief such as hot and cold therapy aren’t effective, however, injections may be suggested. Epidural injections may be recommended to treat several conditions affecting the spine, including:
- Disc herniation affecting the lower back or neck
- Degenerative disc disease
- Spondylolysis (stress fracture of the vertebral arch)
- Spondylolisthesis (slipped disc)
- Cysts on facet joints (spinal joints) or nerve roots
- Spinal stenosis
Before Receiving an Injection
Prior to receiving a shot, patients will undergo a medical exam that will include medical history and a review of previous pain relief efforts the results experienced. Patients who take blood thinners may need to stop taking them prior to the treatment to minimize the risk of bleeding.
During the Procedure
The patient will be face-down on a table. A type of live X-ray called a fluoroscopy is used during the procedure to guide the orthopedic surgeon to the correct location to place the injection. The steroid medication usually included with an epidural injection works on tissues in the affected area. These medications also minimize activity of the immune system to prevent inflammation.
After Receiving an Injection
There may be some slight irritation or soreness around the injection site, but this is usually temporary. It may take a few weeks for the steroid medication to fully work within the treated area. There is sometimes a slight increase in pain as the numbing medication wears off before the steroid medication becomes effective.
Possible Benefits for Patients
Potential benefits for patients include an ability to return to previous activities without significant pain. Some patients are also able to actively participate in physical therapy or a home exercise program, which may result in stronger muscles that support the spine. This added strength can take pressure off of the part of the spine that’s the source of pain.
Epidural injections do not treat the actual source of pain. Even so, some patients are able to enjoy an improved quality of life thanks to the relief experienced after receiving an injection. Injections may also be used for diagnostic purposes to confirm a suspected source of pain. Generally, patients can safely receive up to three shots within a year, although the frequency will depend on when the effects wear off and whether or not symptoms have changed.