What Are Epidural Steroid Injections?
Epidural injections are an integral part of the non-surgical management of chronic pain in the lumbar and cervical regions of the spine. They are also used in patients with sciatica. Epidural injections involve using steroid medications, sometimes combined with local anesthesia, to control pain and reduce inflammation around the nerve roots. Most patients experience pain relief after treatment, but this varies from person to person depending on the patient and the condition. Garen Gajian MD may recommend epidural injections when your pain hasn’t improved with other treatments such as medication and physical therapy.
When would I need an epidural injection?
Your doctor may recommend an epidural injection if chronic pain does not improve with other conservative treatments. Most of the time, epidural injections are used to reduce pain and discomfort caused by narrowing of the spinal canal (spinal stenosis), herniated or bulged discs, bone spurs, and other injuries to the spinal nerves.
However, this treatment is not safe if pregnant because the fetus can be exposed to radiation. People with uncontrolled diabetes, anesthesia drug allergies, and vascular problems are also bad candidates for epidural injections.
The epidural steroid injection procedure
Patients change from their regular clothes to a hospital gown so that specialists can easily access the treatment area. Your specialist may ask you to lie flat with a pillow below your stomach or sideways with your legs curled up. Your healthcare provider cleans the injection site before inserting the needle using a disinfectant. Local anesthesia can also be used to desensitize the treatment area, and your doctor can also administer medication to keep you calm.
Precision is essential during this procedure because the medications need to be injected into a specific place. For this reason, your doctor uses an x-ray machine as a guide to insert the needle in the right spot. The machine produces real-time images and allows the doctor to see the direction the needle is taking. As the doctor inserts the needle into the epidural space, you may feel some pressure, but you hardly feel pain. Your healthcare provider will ask you to remain steady during the procedure since the injections must be precise.
The injected solution usually is a steroid and anti-inflammatory medication combined with local anesthesia, which helps relieve pressure on the nerves around your spine and relieve pain. After the injection, you may need to stay in the recovery room for approximately 20 minutes, during which a nurse monitors you before you can go home.
After the procedure
Expect to feel some soreness on the injection area, which is usually temporary and improved after a few hours. You may not be in the best state to drive, and therefore you need to arrange for someone to take you home. You may need to rest on the day of the procedure, but you can resume normal activities the following day. The pain may worsen during the first two to three days before steroids take effect, after the said time.
It is necessary to consult with your doctor if you have chronic pain and are considering getting an epidural injection. Book a session with your specialist today at Pain & Anesthesia Care to know whether an epidural injection is a suitable treatment for you.