Cervical Epidural Steroid Injection
Many people in the US live with severe or chronic neck pain. Unfortunately, many of these cases are at a point in which only surgery can improve their chances of pain relief. Many of these people are elderly or struggle with recovery from surgeries as well. An accessible and more affordable option for many people is the cervical epidural steroid injection.
Why would someone need a steroid injection?
There are several conditions that may cause a need for steroid injections in the cervical area. The neck area of the spine is also known as the cervical spine. These vertebrae can crack or break, but that is uncommon. More often, the discs between them become hardened, herniate, or tear with age or wear. This is commonly known as degenerative disc disease. When a disc is out of place in any way, this causes the muscles around them to strain and become inflamed. This is one of the main causes of cervical pain. This can cause nerve damage as well if it remains untreated. There are a few other reasons why people might need a cervical steroid injection such as osteoarthritis or spinal stenosis, which are less common. All of these issues can cause pain, numbness, and even loss of motor skills. It can affect the neck, shoulders, and even forearms and hands.
The process of receiving injections
Getting a cervical epidural steroid injection starts with a diagnosis. You will need to visit a doctor who can accurately diagnose the pain occurring in the cervical region. This may mean making an appointment, or visiting an orthopedic urgent care. They may perform several tests to diagnose the problem. At this point, once a diagnosis is reached, most doctors will want to see if non-surgical and non-invasive treatment will help first. These are things like physical therapy, chiropractic care, and at-home treatments like ice and heat. If these are ineffective at treating the pain, that is usually when injections become an option. Usually, the last resort is to perform surgery on the affected area.
How an injection is done
Steroids help decrease the swelling and inflammation of the nerves which are causing the pain, and they can also help with the strain of the muscles in the surrounding areas. These steroids are directly injected into the affected area. A cervical epidural injection must always be performed by a doctor. These injections are usually only done at a hospital because in almost all cases, a fluoroscope is needed to be able to see the area of injection. A fluoroscope is a machine that the doctor uses to see an x-ray image without taking a picture. A doctor will first inject an anesthetic to numb the area topically and also subdermally. Then, a large needle with a curved tip will be inserted into the neck. This ensures that the needle will inject directly into the nerve root. The doctor inserts a contrast solution, in order to see the nerve and area more clearly. This helps them know that they have placed the needle in the right place. Then, a steroid and anti-inflammatory blend will be inserted through the same needle. The needle is removed, and the patient can usually return home soon afterwards. This pain relief from this injection can last anywhere from several days to several months. This can make all the difference for someone suffering with severe neck pain.
Cervical Epidural Side Effects
Rarely, there can be some painful side effects of this kind of procedure. One is that it may not work and may not relieve the pain. Sometimes people have allergic reactions to the medication. There have also been cases of nerve damage, bleeding, swelling, or infection. However, these are uncommon and many people report feeling better and having much less pain, if any. The most common side effect is that the medication may not start working for several days, and may not work for very long. This can be something that makes it not as worth it for a patient.
Cervical Epidural Effectiveness
These injections are intended to relieve pain for a short period of time while waiting or other procedures, like surgery or being able to begin a more intensive series of physical therapy. These are not meant to relieve pain permanently or take the place of long-lasting treatments. For the intended purpose, these injections have proven effective for up to 84% of patients. Some of these patients only experienced partial relief of pain, but still were able to experience some benefits.
Cervical Epidural Recovery
Luckily, the recovery process from a cervical epidural steroid injection is simple. At times, the hospital may require the patient to stay overnight for safety, and to make sure that the nerves have not been damaged. They may also want to make sure that the injection site remains clean and that there is no sign of allergic reaction. This often depends on the patient. In many cases, the patient may return home shortly after receiving the injection.
What Happens Next?
Hopefully, this injection can relieve pain and swelling for several weeks or even months. However, as previously mentioned, it is not a permanent solution. To relieve serious nerve pain, the issue at the heart of that pain must be resolved. This can be through surgery or physical therapy and muscle treatment. Most patients will only receive one of these injections before being able to pursue more aggressive treatments. Pain relief is a difficult road to navigate, so talk to your doctor about all available options. Neck pain is not uncommon, but severe and radiating pain is never normal. Protect yourself from sustaining nerve damage and causing yourself more pain by scheduling an appointment to see an orthopedic doctor as soon as possible. They can help you find the best available options for you!
Only a doctor can tell you if you have this ailment. This is for informational purposes and should not be used in lieu of a doctor’s opinion.