16 May Epidural Steroid Injections
Over time, the human body deteriorates. Muscles get weaker, bones become brittle, skin becomes thinner, and other indignities of age surface. One of the more common, serious problems with age or overuse is degenerative changes of spinal column. Often, this manifests as neck, mid, or low back pain. These degenerative changes include bulging discs, irritation of the spinal nerve roots, and narrowing of the spinal canal (putting pressure on the spinal cord and nerve roots). While surgical treatment may be needed in some cases, using epidural steroid injections is often attempted first.
Are These Steroids Safe?
The short answer is, absolutely! Epidural steroid injections have been done for decades and have long been shown to be both safe and effective. The most common complication (about 1% of cases) is a dural puncture, where the needle used to inject the steroids punctures the membrane surrounding the spinal fluid. A spinal headache can result and could last for days, although treatments are available. Other rare complications are typical of invasive medical treatments; infection, bleeding, allergic reaction, or nerve damage. Other problems include the “steroid flush,” redness in the face and chest for up to several days. Rarely, steroid injections can cause an increase in pain for a few days after injection. Generally, pain relief starts in a few days, but could last as long as a week.
Neck and Back Pain
How do epidural steroid injections help neck or back pain? The steroids reduce inflammation of the spinal nerves and decrease the compression on them, reducing the pain experienced. That, in turn, makes it easier to move the parts of the body that previously caused debilitating pain. However, the steroid injections do not correct or improve the underlying condition that causes the pain. In some ways, steroid injections just make the condition easier to live with.
Using Epidural Steroid Injections
Epidural steroid injections are generally done in a batch of three, each about a month apart from each other. It is not common for just one injection to significantly reduce the pain experienced. The first injection is usually not done on the first visit, either. The first visit is often to evaluate the patient and their needs, including reviewing their medical history. Exceptions are patients who have arranged with their insurer to allow the procedure on the day of the first visit.
The procedure is not very involved and is done under local anesthesia as an outpatient. Any swelling is mild to moderate and can be treated with an ice pack. Don’t apply heat to the area of the injection, and don’t bathe that day either. Last, don’t drive the day of the injection.
You need serious, competent medical advice before having an epidural steroidal block. Don’t suffer in silence when you don’t have to – consult with experienced physicians. Contact us today!