Diagnostic and therapeutic injections for back pain

Injections can be used for both diagnosing and treating back pain. While there are several different types of injections, the premise is generally the same. A short-acting numbing medication and a long-acting anti-inflammatory medication are injected into a muscle, nerve or joint in the spine. If this results in immediate pain relief, the targeted area can usually be confirmed as the cause of the patient’s pain. When used for therapeutic purposes, the injections can be repeated up to two or three times a year to provide ongoing pain relief.

Epidural steroid injections

Epidural steroid injections for back pain deliver medications directly into the space between the spinal vertebrae and spinal fluid (epidural space). These procedures are very similar to the epidural injections that many women receive during childbirth.

Sacroiliac (SI) joint injections

Sacroiliac (SI) joint injections specifically target the sacroiliac joints, which connect the bottom of the spine to the pelvis. Inflammation in these joints often causes pain in the lower body, and injections are one way to potentially alleviate this discomfort.

Nerve block injections

Nerve block injections can be placed in or near a nerve in the spine. There are peripheral nerve blocks, which target nerves that are responsible for pain transmission and motor control, and sympathetic nerve blocks, which target nerves that regulate blood flow and gland function.

Facet joint injections

Facet block injections target the spinal facet joints, which allow the spine to bend and twist. If needed, multiple injections can be administered to multiple arthritic joints.

Trigger point injections

Unlike other types of injections for back pain, trigger point injections target painful areas of knotted muscle (trigger points) rather than joints or nerves in the spine. These injections can relieve back pain by relaxing overly tight muscles that are irritating nearby nerves. Several trigger points may be injected during one office visit.

What you need to know if you’re considering a back pain injection

Back pain injections are traditionally performed on an outpatient basis with no need for special preparation. If an injection is effective, pain relief may begin within several minutes to several hours, and the results may last for up to several months. If you’re considering injections for your back pain, ask your physician if they’re right for you.