Epidural steroid injections are sometimes prescribed for patients who have spinal conditions that produce symptoms such as localized pain, radiating pain, tingling, numbness or muscle weakness. More often than not, injection therapy is held in reserve until other conservative, non-surgical methods have been attempted. Conservative treatments include physical therapy, over-the-counter and prescription medication, massage, behavior modification or brief periods of rest.
The goal of injections is to reduce inflammation in the vicinity of a compressed nerve root or degenerating spinal joint. Injections can be used to numb pain (therapeutic injections) or to pinpoint the precise source of a patient’s symptoms (diagnostic injections).
Epidural steroid injections are proven to provide temporary relief for some patients with a herniated disc, bulging disc, spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis, arthritis of the spine or other spinal condition. The key word is “temporary” – one injection is not enough. Injections often are prescribed in a series, rarely more often than three applications a year. The injection generally takes about an hour and proceeds as follows:
- You will be positioned as comfortably as possible, likely while attached to electronic monitors for heart rate and breathing
- Your skin will be sterilized, and a sterile drape might be placed over your skin
- Your physician might recommend the use of conscious sedation if you are nervous or fidgety
- A local anesthetic will be applied near the injection site to numb the area
- Fluoroscopy (X-ray imaging) might be used to ensure precise placement of the injection; contrast dye might also be used to help the pain-numbing solution show up on the fluoroscope
- A pain-numbing or pain-blocking solution, usually corticosteroid, will be injected into the area of the dura associated with the pain-producing inflammation
When epidural steroid injections are not enough
If chronic neck or back pain persists despite a series of epidural steroid injections, a physician might recommend surgery as an option. Rather than settle for highly invasive traditional open back surgery, contact Laser Spine Institute. The orthopedic surgeons at Laser Spine Institute use advanced techniques to perform minimally invasive procedures on an outpatient basis, and these procedures have far less risk and a much shorter recuperation than traditional open back surgery.