At Nova Spine & Pain Centers, we believe you should not have to live with chronic pain. Among our various treatments, epidural injections can be an effective solution. Visit our expert Dr. Harris Shaikh and his team to learn if these injections can help you.
An epidural injection is a minimally invasive treatment that delivers pain-relieving medication via catheter (thin, flexible tube) into the epidural space (space located outside of the membrane that surrounds the spine and the exiting nerves). The epidural space houses the nerves that impact various parts of the body, primarily the lower body.
WHAT CONDITIONS DO EPIDURALS TREAT?
Epidurals are typically associated with labor as a means of pain relief for women giving birth. However, they have been used for decades as an effective pain management tool for a variety of symptoms and conditions, including:
- Herniated or bulging discs
- Degenerative disc disease
- Sciatica symptoms
- Lumbar spinal stenosis
- Lumbar radiculopathy
- Back pain following spine surgery
- Spondylolisthesis (slipping of the vertebral column)
- Bone spurs
- Compression fractures
- Cysts (in the area of a nerve root or facet joint)
- Other injuries to spinal nerves, vertebrae and surrounding tissues
HOW DO EPIDURAL INJECTIONS WORK?
The aforementioned conditions commonly cause inflammation or nerve root pressure, resulting in pain, numbness or tingling along the nerve roots.
With the administration of pain medication (e.g., a local anesthetic) and pain-relieving medication (e.g., a steroid such as cortisone), inflammation or other symptoms are reduced/eliminated.
HOW ARE EPIDURAL INJECTIONS ADMINISTERED?
Epidural injections are administered in the office/outpatient clinic where a patient lies on an X-ray table, and a local anesthesia is administered to the skin of the lower back. A fluoroscopy (live X-ray) or CT scan is used to place the needle in an optimal location for maximum accuracy.
The injection is delivered with a syringe that looks similar to the one used for routine vaccinations. The medication within the syringe vial depends on the nature of the condition being treated. The benefit of the medication being injected directly into the epidural space is that it directly coats the inflamed or irritated nerve roots.
The sensation of the injection ranges from no feeling at all to tingling (pins and needles) to slight pressure. There may be mild discomfort as the medication reaches the desired location. However, discomfort usually disappears when the injection is complete. In fact, this entire procedure (which takes between 15 and 30 minutes) is generally well tolerated by patients.
WHAT CAN PATIENTS EXPECT FOLLOWING THE PROCEDURE?
If any pain or discomfort is present following the procedure, applying ice packs can be helpful for up to two to three days. Full improvement is apparent from two to five days, after which the medication should be in full effect.
The length of improvement from an epidural injection varies, depending on the individual patient, the length of time of the condition and the severity of the symptoms. Some people experience permanent relief; some experience long-term relief ranging from several days to months (or even a year). Meanwhile, others may need a series of injections to achieve significant relief.