Using 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 recommended a corticosteroid injection to relieve your symptoms.

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 painkillers 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 in the back. Read on to learn more about the benefits of corticosteroid injections and alternative treatments if this method does not provide you with sufficient relief.

How is a corticosteroid administered?

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 neck or in the back. This is done visually through a live X-ray or 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. When the area is numb, your physician injects a 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.

Surgical options for a pinched nerve in the back

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 of a pinched nerve in the spinal column. At that point, you may be recommended to see if you are a candidate for surgery, such as the minimally invasive procedures offered at Laser Spine Institute.
At Laser Spine Institute, our advanced techniques do not require a lengthy recovery and are a safer and effective alternative to traditional open neck and back surgery.^ Our team of dedicated surgeons is able to perform procedures through a less than 1-inch incision that does not unnecessarily disrupt the muscles near the spine.

For more information about our state-of-the-art procedures and to find out if our minimally invasive spine surgery would be effective in relieving your chronic neck or back pain, contact Laser Spine Institute today and request a no-cost MRI review.* Since 2005, we have been able to help more than 75,000 patients find relief from their chronic neck and back pain.

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