How Epidural Injections Treat Nerve Pain?
If you’re experiencing nerve pain that originates in your spine and radiates to an extremity (sometimes referred to as sciatica), there is a treatment that can help minimize symptoms and help you return to optimal function. Epidural injections are a non-surgical treatment option that can help you. In this article, you’ll learn when they’re used, how they work, and if they’re right for you. Let’s jump right in:
Epidural Injections: When They’re Used
Epidural injections are used to treat localized or radiating pain that’s caused by a pinched nerve in the spine. Common reasons for a nerve being pinched are:
- A disc tear
- A herniated disc
- Spinal Stenosis
- Spinal arthritis (Spondylosis)
Illustration 1– A pinched nerve due to a herniated disc
In most cases, epidural injections are used after conservative treatment options have produced little to no symptom relief or pain is functionally limiting. Injections are used to help facilitate return to normal function by decreasing pain and nerve root swelling and irritation. It should be noted that non-invasive treatment is neither stopped nor replaced by epidural injections. A comprehensive treatment plan that includes injections, activity modification, physical therapy, and other pain management measures is most effective.
Epidural Injections: How They Work
The epidural space lies between the membrane of the spinal cord and the vertebral wall of the spinal canal. Because it’s close to the nerve roots, the epidural space is the ideal location to administer a combination of anesthetic and anti-inflammatory medications that quickly decrease nerve irritation and pain. For some patients, one epidural injection provides lasting symptom relief. Depending on severity and longevity of the symptoms multiple injections may be needed. While not a cure for a pinched nerve, an epidural steroid injection has a 60% chance of preventing the need for spine surgery and can lead to long term sustained improvement. It is not just a band-aid or an injection to treat pain, but is an evidenced based treatment designed to facilitate your bodies on regenerative and healing process.
Epidural Injections: The Procedure
The first step in a successful procedure involves identifying the problematic nerve. Once the nerve is identified, a treatment plan and appropriate approach is designed to target the specific site of nerve impingement. The injection doesn’t take long—a needle is inserted into the epidural space and the medication is administered. This is done safely and efficiently by using an X-ray to guide the needle to exactly the right place, with minimal discomfort. After which contrast dye is used to confirm the spread of the medication along the injured nerve root. The patient is able to return home immediately after, with essentially no recovery time.
Is An Epidural Steroid Injection Appropriate for me?
Pain, numbness, burning or tingling that starts in the spine and radiates to an extremity can be treated with epidural injections. But not before non-invasive measures have been tried. In order to find out if epidural injections might be the treatment option that’s right for you, please contact our office to arrange an appointment and evaluation.
For More Information: Epidural Steroid Injection Info Sheet