Pain can be extremely difficult to manage and endure at times. Nerves can become compressed and the pressure then creates swelling and inflammation. This can lead to pain, numbness, tingling and even weakening (or damage) to the nerve. One pain management treatment option for patients experiencing such pain is through the use of an epidural injection procedure. An epidural is a long-lasting steroid medication used to help reduce swelling and inflammation of the nerves and, thus, reduce any pain associated with the compression of a nerve.
What Types of Pain are Associated with an Epidural Injection Procedure?
A commonly known use of epidural injections is for pregnant women during labor, to help relieve the pain of childbirth. However, epidural injections are used for much more than that type of pain. Common conditions treated with the use of an epidural injection include:
• Herniated Disc – This is when one of the intervertebral discs, which help to provide stability and absorb shock for the spine, bulges or ruptures. This is usually caused when the outer layer of the disc becomes weakened. The result is a great deal of pain, swelling and irritation.
• Spinal Stenosis – This is a condition when the spinal canal and nerve root canal narrow and it begins to put compression on the spinal cord and surrounding nerves. This makes it extremely painful to walk and reduced mobility.
• Sciatica – This is a condition where the sciatic nerve, which runs from your lower back, through your hips and buttocks and to your legs, becomes compressed. The result is excruciating pain that engulfs the lower body, particularly the buttocks and legs.
• Spondylosis – This is a condition that can be the result of either a fracture or general wear and tear of the upper and lower parts of the spinal discs. This can cause bone spurs and thinning of the discs, which can become extremely painful for the nerve roots.
• Degenerative Disc Disease – This is when the intervertebral disc collapses and the outer layer, known as the annulus, is torn. This can happen as the result of untreated and unattended herniated discs. Bone spur growth is also known to be affiliated with degenerative disc disease.
• Lower Back and Neck Pain – In addition to the above conditions, severe lower back and neck pain (either as a result of an injury, accident or chronic pain) are also painful conditions where epidural injections are used to help treat and manage the pain.
When is an Epidural Injection Procedure Needed?
Now that we know what common pain conditions are used with epidural injections, it may be helpful to know when an epidural injection is needed. In general, epidural injections are administered to patients who have tried alternative methods of pain management, including but not limited to: chiropractic care, over-the-counter and prescription pain and anti-inflammatory medication, massage and physical therapy.
If following these conservative and conventional methods of pain relief you are still experiencing pain that limits mobility, becomes difficult to endure or manage, or generally affects your quality of life, an epidural steroid injection may be helpful to relieve you of your pain. A doctor will go over your medical and pain history and determine if an epidural injection is an appropriate treatment option for you.
Side Effects of an Epidural Injection
As with most procedures, there are always potential side effects. Epidural steroid injections are considered a relatively safe procedure for majority of patients, however, given its minimally-invasive nature. The most common side effects with epidural injections include pain, bleeding and swelling at the injection site. This is temporary and usually experienced in the days following the procedure.
You should immediately contact your doctor if you have a loss of feeling or function in your arms or legs, a fever of 101 degrees or higher for more than 24 hours, or painful headaches.
How Long Does an Epidural Injection Last?
The procedure itself is about 15 to 45 minutes. The patient will be awake while the epidural injection is administered and will begin to take effect immediately following the procedure. Many patients are able to walk out of the procedure. The pain relief provided by the epidural injection last for several weeks to up to a few months, and for some even a year or more. For patients with more severe cases of pain management, they may require multiple epidural injections each year—with a limit of up to 3 epidural injections in a 12-month period.
All-in-all, epidural steroid injections have been an effective and successful means of pain management for decades. If you are experiencing any pain associated with the conditions noted above or chronic and severe lower back and neck pain, contact Centers of Rehabilitation and Pain Medicine (CRPM) at (714) 909-0136 or online today! The friendly staff and experienced doctors can work to help you begin relieving pain for you so you can begin moving on with your life!