Treating spinal stenosis with epidural steroid injections

Spinal stenosis is described as the narrowing of the spinal canal in your lumbar or lower back. As the spinal canal narrows, the nerves can become pinched as a result of degenerative disorders such as bone spurs, bulging or herniated discs, facet joint cysts, thickening ligaments and arthritis of the spine. Epidural steroid injections are often used to treat the symptoms of spinal stenosis when more conservative treatments are not effective.

Epidural steroid injections are able to provide a temporary, and sometimes long-term, relief because they contain a corticosteroid, which is a powerful synthetic chemical that reduces inflammation and pain caused by spinal stenosis. Read on to learn more about whether epidural steroid injections would be helpful for treating your spinal stenosis symptoms.

Do I need epidural steroid injections for spinal stenosis?

If you have been diagnosed with spinal stenosis, you may be experiencing the following symptoms:

  • Local pain
  • Traveling pain to extremities
  • Tingling, numbness and stiffness
  • Weakness in the legs
  • Cramping or muscle spasms
  • Difficulty balancing and walking
  • Headaches and overall physical weakness

Before using an epidural steroid injection for spinal stenosis, a physician is likely to recommend these conservative treatments first:

  • Rest or reduced activity
  • Traction or inversion tables
  • Physical therapy or chiropractic visits
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Low-impact exercises, such as walking or swimming

However, if these initial spinal stenosis treatments have not provided the pain relief you hoped for and your symptoms remain persistent and severe, an epidural steroid injection may be the next course of treatment. In addition to the pain relief these injections provide, an added benefit is that they can allow you to engage in exercise and physical therapy that would otherwise be difficult without them.

Spinal stenosis epidural steroid injections procedure

First, imagery like an MRI, CT scan or X-ray is used to find the area along your spinal column where the pain and discomfort originates. For instance, lumbar spinal stenosis, the most common form of the condition, occurs in the lower (lumbar) spine. If you have cervical spinal stenosis, the narrowing of the spinal canal occurs in the upper (cervical) spine.

During the epidural steroid injection procedure, a fluoroscope, or real-time X-ray, is used by the doctor to find the exact spot of narrowing in your spinal column. A local anesthetic is often applied to numb the area of injection. Finally, a large needle is inserted into the epidural space outside the spinal cord, in order to inject the corticosteroid right to the source of nerve compression.

Corticosteroid injections are extremely effective for many patients, with some reporting immediate relief. Doctors will usually limit frequency of epidural steroid injections because they can cause serious long-term side effects, including hypertension, osteoporosis and weight gain. Short-term temporary effects from the injections may include slightly raised blood sugar, nausea, dizziness, headaches and insomnia.

Surgical alternatives for spinal stenosis

If you have been through round after round of conservative treatments, including epidural steroid injections, and your life is still being disrupted by painful stenosis symptoms, your doctor may recommend seeing if you are a candidate for either traditional or minimally invasive spine surgery.

Traditional open back surgery can come with many difficulties, such as leading to a hospitalization of two to five days. Laser Spine Institute offers a safer and effective alternative for spinal stenosis by using a less than 1-inch, muscle-sparing incision, which results in no lengthy recovery as well as a lower risk of complication and a lower infection rate compared to traditional open back surgery.^

At Laser Spine Institute, we offer minimally invasive procedures for spinal stenosis such as a laminotomy, which is able to remove the offending agent that is narrowing the canal in order to alleviate the symptoms associated with this condition. We are pleased to have helped more than 75,000 patients to date find relief from their debilitating conditions. Contact Laser Spine Institute today and request a no-cost MRI review* to learn if our outpatient procedures would be effective in relieving your chronic neck or back pain.

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