Epidural spinal injection is a non-surgical treatment option utilized for relieving back pain. Spine degenerative conditions such as herniated disc, spinal stenosis and many others may induce back pain due to the compression of the associated spinal nerves. This pain or numbness may extend to the other parts of the body such as hips, buttocks, and legs. Doctors start with non-surgical methods to treat back pain and epidural spinal injection is one of these preferences. In cases where the patient finds no relief from non-surgical methods then finally surgery is recommended.
Epidural spinal injections contain a strong anti-inflammatory agent called corticosteroid and an anesthetic for pain relief. It is not the same as epidural anesthesia given before birth to decrease labor pain. Epidural injections are administered into the epidural space of the spine. The epidural space is the space between the outermost covering of the spinal cord (dura mater) and the wall of the spinal canal. It is approximately 5mm wide and is filled with spinal nerve roots, fat and small blood vessels.
An epidural spinal injection may be employed both for diagnostic and therapeutic reasons, including:
It is to be noted that epidural spinal injection is not a curative intervention rather it’s a treatment tool to reduce the discomfort of the patient so that rehabilitation programs such as physical therapy may be well executed.
Pain management in different conditions such as spinal stenosis, disc herniation and arthritis can be done through epidural injection. Different types of physicians such as physiatrists, anesthesiologists, radiologists, neurologists, and surgeons may recommend epidural injections for pain relief.
Usually epidural spinal injection is done on an outpatient basis. The procedure involves the following steps:
Patients may feel some pressure during the injection but mostly the procedure is painless. The procedure takes about 15-30 minutes to complete. After injection, the patient should not drive or go back to work and should rest and avoid any vigorous activities. Your surgeon may give specific post-care instructions. Please follow the instructions to recover faster.
Patients may feel numbness in the arms or legs just after procedure along with other side effects related to the anesthetic component that usually settles down within 1-8 hours. Patients may continue to feel some back pain, as epidural spinal injections takes about 24-72 hours before showing its pain-relieving action. In some cases, if the desired effect is not obtained then reinjection may be recommended. The standard guidelines for steroid injections state a maximum of 3 injections per year. In case no relief is obtained from spinal injection, then surgery is considered as the final option.
With any procedure some risks factors will always be there. Likewise, epidural spinal injections have complications such as bleeding or infection at the injection site, pain during or after injection, post-injection headache, nerve injury, bladder dysfunction, fluid retention, respiratory arrest, epidural hematoma, and spinal cord infarction. Discuss with your doctor if you have any concerns prior to the procedure.