Should You Get an Epidural Steroid Injection?

When back or neck pain persists despite conservative treatments, call our office at Spine & Pain Institute of Florida or sche

Statistics show that most people won’t make it through their adult years without suffering at least one bout of neck or low back pain, whether due to everyday muscle strain, an injury, or degenerative changes. Unfortunately, the pain becomes chronic for about 10% of patients, often turning into a debilitating problem that doesn’t improve with conventional medical treatment.

When your neck or back pain persists despite medical care, it’s time to try our interventional pain management options at Spine & Pain Institute of Florida. While we offer many effective therapies, one of the best for relieving back and neck pain is an epidural steroid injection. Read on to learn when you may benefit from this pain-relieving treatment.

Epidural steroid injections help these spine conditions

Epidural steroid injections specifically treat nerves in the spinal cord that are compressed due to problems with your spine. The conditions most often responsible for pinched and damaged nerves -- and the conditions that may benefit from an epidural steroid injection -- include:

Herniated discs

Each disc in your spine consists of a gel-like center surrounded by a tough, fibrous covering. When the covering becomes damaged, the gel-like center can herniate, pushing out through the weakened area and pressing against nearby nerves.

Bone spurs caused by osteoarthritis

When the vertebral facet joints are damaged by osteoarthritis, your body naturally responds by growing bone spurs. As these bony growths enlarge, they can pinch nerves.

Degenerative disc disease

Over time, the discs between vertebrae weaken and dehydrate, ultimately collapsing and either directly pinching nerves or leading to bone spurs that cause nerve problems.

Spinal stenosis

Spinal stenosis is a condition in which the spinal canal narrows and compresses the nerves. Stenosis is caused by all the conditions in this list, as well as other problems such as ligaments that thicken over time.

Spondylolisthesis

When you have spondylolisthesis, a vertebra slips out of position due to a defect or fracture in the bone. As a result, it compresses nerves and causes pain.

Depending on the location of the compressed nerves, you’ll have neck, shoulder, or lower back pain. Compressed nerves can also cause pain, tingling, and numbness along the affected nerve as it travels down your arm or leg.

The best example of this type of nerve pain is sciatica, which occurs when the sciatic nerve is pinched in the lumbar spine. Sciatica is well-known for causing severe, electric-shock type pain that radiates down your legs and sometimes into your feet.

Epidural steroid injections explained

Epidural steroid injections provide exceptionally effective pain relief for three reasons. First, they contain a corticosteroid, which is a potent anti-inflammatory medication. After the steroid is injected, it takes a little time to work, but before long, you’ll feel the pain ebb away as the medication reduces inflammation and swelling.

For most people, the pain relief lasts three months, but for some patients it can last a year or longer. There’s no way to predict your response because the results vary from one patient to the next.

The second reason epidural steroid injections alleviate nerve pain so well is because they’re injected into the epidural space. This space is a small area between the vertebrae and the protective membrane surrounding the spinal cord. As the injection is released, the medication infuses through the sac and flows around the targeted nerves, essentially bathing them in pain-relieving medication.

Finally, the injection is placed directly at the inflamed, painful nerves. We use real-time imaging, which allows us to see the vertebrae, nerves, epidural space, and the needle as we guide it into the spine. With this technique, we can precisely target the compressed nerves.  

Here’s what to expect during an epidural steroid injection

The total epidural steroid injection procedure takes about 15-45 minutes, but the actual injection goes quickly. We numb the area with a local anesthetic, so you shouldn’t feel pain. Most patients do feel some pressure from the needle. 

You should be able to walk around when the procedure is over. You’ll be monitored in the office for a short time, and then you can go home. It’s normal to have some soreness around the injection site, but you should be able to get back to your usual activities the same day.

If you only experience mild pain relief over the next few days, you may need to have one or two additional injections to achieve the full effect. These shots are spaced 1-4 weeks apart.  

When back or neck pain persists despite conservative treatments, call our office at Spine & Pain Institute of Florida or schedule an appointment online. We’ll give you a thorough examination and determine if you’re a good candidate for an epidural steroid injection.

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