Epidural Steroid Injections
If you should have chronic back pain, you know it can become very debilitating. It can keep you from working, getting restful sleep, pursuing leisure activities and enjoying life. When physical therapy and other pain relief methods are no longer effective, an epidural steroid injection may be an option.
“The spine is the hub of your nervous system,” says David Lutz, Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA), Redwood Area Hospital. “And due to its confined space the nerves may become inflamed and swollen, generating messages to the brain that are perceived as pain. By inserting a steroid near the spinal space, we can reduce the swelling and reduce the pain messages.”
An epidural steroid injection delivers a steroid into the epidural space in the lower back to help relieve pain and swelling. A local anesthetic is used to numb the area and a needle is used to inject the steroid. “The steroid is delivered near the affected area, where it can do the most good,” Lutz explains, having more than 25 years of experience performing the procedure.
Causes of Pain
The back can have many pain generators which may include sciatica, degenerative disk disease, herniated disks disease, and spinal stenosis. Other pain problems may involve the joints of the spine: the sacral iliac joint and facet joints.
Problems with the disks in the spine are a common cause of back pain. Disks are pads of tissue that separate the bones (vertebrae) in your spine. The disks are filled with a gel-like and membranous substance. Tears can develop in the disks that allow the fluid inside to leak out, resulting in pain. “Disks do heal, but very slowly,” Lutz says. “It can take up to two years for disks to heal, so an epidural steroid injection may buy time for healing.”
Relief and Healing
The injection provides effective, temporary pain relief for about 80 percent of people who try it. Pain relief from an epidural steroid injections may last several months. “An epidural steroid injection can reduce dependence on pain medications and provide enough pain relief to allow patients to progress with a rehabilitative and strengthening exercise program to address the underlying condition,” Lutz explains.
Patients are usually limited to two to four epidural steroid injections per year due to the potency of the steroids. It is usually only used if medications, physical therapy and other conservative treatments have failed to produce adequate pain relief.
If you’d like to know more about epidural steroid injections as a possible solution for your back pain, contact us or ask your doctor.