Corticosteroid Injections to Treat a Pinched Nerve in the Back

When symptoms of a pinched nerve in the back are so debilitating that you have trouble standing up straight, sitting for long periods, going to work or engaging in normal physical activity, you may be a candidate for a corticosteroid injection.

Corticosteroid injections are commonly prescribed to treat a pinched nerve in the neck or back, but the injections are reserved for the most severe and persistent cases of neck and back pain. When more conservative pinched nerve treatments such as rest, physical therapy, exercise, hot/cold therapy, anti-inflammatory medications and pain killers fail to relieve symptoms, the next course of treatment may be a corticosteroid injection..

Sometimes called epidural steroid injections, corticosteroid injections are so potent and long-lasting (relieving symptoms for weeks or even months) that they provide some patients with enough pain relief that they can move normally again and pursue physical therapy, exercise and other methods of rehabilitating a pinched nerve.

If your physician elects for a corticosteroid injection to treat your pinched nerve, he or she will first pinpoint the exact location of the pinched nerve in your spinal column – whether it’s a pinched nerve in the back or a pinched nerve in the neck. This is done visually through a “live” X-ray, or a fluoroscopy. Once the location is determined, a local anesthetic is injected into the targeted area to numb against the pain caused by the corticosteroid injection itself. Once the area is numb, your physician injects a large needle attached to a syringe, filled with a corticosteroid, into your neck or back.

Corticosteroid provides immediate relief to some patients. That’s because it is a powerful synthetic anti-inflammatory medication similar in chemical composition to cortisol. Cortisol is a naturally occurring anti-inflammatory hormone manufactured in the body by the adrenal gland.

Physicians carefully restrict the number of corticosteroid injections because, over time, they can cause weight gain, osteoporosis (bone degeneration), facial swelling and hypertension. Milder effects include headaches, dizziness, insomnia, increased blood sugar and nausea.

About 50 percent of all patients who receive corticosteroid injections to treat a pinched nerve in the neck or back find long-term relief. But, it can take up to three injections to reduce or eliminate pinched nerve symptoms. Sometimes, corticosteroid injections do not stop the symptoms caused by bulging discs, bone spurs and inflamed tissue in the spinal column. At that point, traditional back surgery may be recommended. However, there is an alternative to open back surgery at Laser Spine Institute. We offer minimally invasive, outpatient procedures that can release a pinched nerve in the back. For more information, and for a review of your MRI or CT scan, contact Laser Spine Institute today.

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