An epidural spinal injection is a non-surgical treatment option that may provide either short- or long-term relief of radiating back pain.
When spinal nerves become irritated or inflamed due to a degenerative condition in the spine that is causing nerve compression, such as a herniated disc or spinal stenosis, the result may be severe acute or chronic back pain, as well as pain, numbness and muscle weakness that extends elsewhere into the body, such as the hips, buttocks or legs. Before your doctor considers spine surgery to relieve these symptoms, he or she will most likely recommend one or more non-surgical treatment measures. An epidural spinal injection is one of these options.
What is an Epidural Spinal Injection?
An epidural spinal injection involves delivering anti-inflammatory medication—typically a steroid combined with an anaesthetic—directly into the area around the irritated spinal nerves that are causing the pain. This area is called the epidural space, and it surrounds the sheath-like protective membrane—or dura—that covers the spinal nerves and nerve roots. Steroids reduce nerve irritation by inhibiting production of the proteins that cause inflammation; the anesthetic blocks nerve conduction in the area where it’s applied, numbing the sensation of pain.
How does an Epidural Injection work?
An epidural spinal injection may be done either for diagnostic or therapeutic reasons:
- By injecting medication around a specific nerve root, your doctor can determine if that particular nerve root is the cause of the problem.
- When administered for therapeutic reasons, a spinal epidural injection may provide long- or short-term relief, anywhere from a week to several months. In some instances, an epidural spinal injection may break the cycle of inflammation and provide permanent relief.
How Is An Epidural Spinal Injection Administered?
An epidural spinal injection is generally done on an outpatient basis, either at our doctor’s clinic or local hospital or medical center, and the procedure typically involves:
- Positioning the patient to give the doctor clear access to the area of the spine to be treated.
- Wiping the skin with an antiseptic to clean the area where the epidural needle will be inserted;
- Injecting a local anesthetic to numb the injection site;
- Injecting the steroid/anesthetic medication into the epidural space; and
- Removing the needle from the epidural space, wiping the injection site with an antiseptic and covering it with a bandage.
The procedure typically takes 15-30 minutes. After the procedure, you’ll be monitored for about 30 minutes in the recovery room. You should avoid any strenuous activities for the rest of the day following your procedure.
After your injection, you may experience some numbness in your arms or legs. This is a temporary side effect associated with the anesthetic component of the injection, and it typically subsides within 1 to 8 hours. Your pain also may increase over the following 24-48 hours; it generally takes 24-72 hours for the pain-relieving benefits of a spinal epidural injection to take effect.
Is Epidural Injection Safe?
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