Typically, if you have had strong back pain for over 6 weeks, you may be a candidate for epidural steroid injections. This method of pain management is less invasive, has less downtime, and is less painful than a surgical procedure, even a minimally invasive spine surgery.
Here are the top 9 most common questions we are asked about epidural steroid injections.
1. What is an epidural steroid injection?
An epidural steroid injection is a pain management procedure that involves injecting corticosteroids, which is an anti-inflammatory medicine, into the epidural space near the spinal cord. The medication works to numb the pain caused by pressure on nearby nerves.
2. How long does the pain relief last?
The length of effectiveness of the epidural steroid injection is highly dependent on the type of spine condition you have and its severity. On average, pain relief from an epidural steroid injection lasts three months. For most patients, this is enough time for your back to heal.
3. Are there risks associated with epidural steroid injections?
As with any medical procedures there are risks involved, but the risks are minimal with injections. You could experience pain at the injection site, infections, allergic reaction, “steroid flush,” headache, or in rare cases, nerve damage. The pain management experts at Oasis Orthopedic and Spine minimize epidural steroid risks by using medical imaging and non-surgical techniques.
4. What happens during epidural steroid injection treatment?
The process of an epidural steroid injection is fairly simple. Your spine specialist will ask you to lay face-down on an exam table and use medical imaging equipment to guide the injection needle to the exact level in your spine needed (which will depend on the location of your pain and other symptoms).
They will first inject a contrast dye that allows the physician to see exactly where the medicine will be placed as well as the direction it will go. Then the steroid medicine will be injected. Some procedures will also include a local anesthetic. In rare cases, sedation is provided.
5. How long does an epidural steroid injection procedure take?
The procedure itself lasts about 15-45 minutes. Depending on your condition, you may be asked to spend a short amount of time recovering before you go home.
6. When can I return to work and normal activities?
The short answer is, it depends. The exact condition you suffer from, as well as the location on your spine, plays a significant role in how much downtime you need. But you can return to work following an epidural steroid injection much sooner than any invasive procedure, such as surgery. Many patients return to work and/or resume normal activities the next day.
7. How long until I feel pain relief?
Following an epidural steroid injection, you may feel soreness at the injection site. As the numbing medication wears off, you may also experience a slight increase in pain or weakness before the steroids take effect. Steroids typically begin to take effect within one to three days, and in more rare situations, up to seven days.
8. How long will the pain relief last?
The duration of pain relief from epidural steroid injections can be weeks, months, or even years. In addition to pain relief, many feel an improved level of function and flexibility during movement.
If you do not feel any reduction in pain, tell your spine specialist. This could be a sign that the source of your pain is not nerve-related.
9. How many injections can I get?
If both you and your spine specialist feel that the epidural steroid injection was effective, you may be able to continue with this treatment. In most situations, you can receive up to 3 injections, each performed at least 4 weeks apart. However, your spine expert may feel the need to reassess your situation if you are approaching more than 3 injections within a 12-month period.
The Benefits of Epidural Steroid Injections
The goal of an epidural steroid injection is to reduce the inflammation that is putting pressure on the nerve and causing your pain. The bigger impact of an epidural steroid injection is the improvement to your quality of life. With this injection, many are able to focus on the things that matter most to them, rather than the constant presence of pain. These injections can also reduce dependence on pain medications and even avoid a surgery.
If you think epidural steroid injections could be the solution to your low back or mid back pain, request your free in-office or telehealth consultation today.