Lumbar Epidural Steroid Injection
Over 30% of Americans struggle with back or neck pain each year. That is over a third of the population! Fortunately, there are many options for treating back pain. In some cases, this can be treated easily through chiropractic help, physical therapy, or even hot and cold compresses at home. However, some cases are more severe and require more intense treatments. Most doctors try to use the more simple treatments first, but if those do not work, they progress to other solutions. Pain management can be difficult, and going to a doctor is the best way to find out what will work for you.
Why get a Lumbar Epidural Injection?
Pain in the spine is caused by different conditions. Sometimes, this has to do with the vertebrae cracking or breaking, which is usually caused by injury. These may heal on their own, but they can be painful or cause other issues. Another cause of spinal pain can come from discs rupturing or shrinking. This usually occurs due to age, and is commonly known as degenerative disc disease. Other causes of back pain include bone spurs, arthritis, and nerve damage. Many of these underlying issues can cause the muscles of the spine and the surrounding tissue to become inflamed. This is where a steroid injection can help. It doesn’t solve the underlying issue, but it can decrease the pain and inflammation in the nerves and muscles that are being strained. This can help someone to start a bout of intense physical therapy, or it can relieve the pain and swelling leading up to surgery.
How does it work?
A lumbar epidural steroid injection must be done by a doctor. They usually take place in a hospital, because in most cases a doctor needs to use a fluoroscope to be able to perform the injection. A fluoroscope is basically a real-time x-ray, so the doctor can see where to insert the needle. There are three different ways to insert the needle depending on where the medication is needed. Sometimes the injection needs to go into the side of the spine, called a transforaminal injection. Other times it will go right through the gaps in the vertebrae through the back, known as an interlaminar injection. Another one is less invasive, which goes underneath the spine at the base, called a caudal injection. The caudal injection has a reputation for not working as well, but it is less dangerous and can avoid causing nerve damage or issues if it is done incorrectly. First, an anesthetic is applied to the area where the injection will be given, and then a much larger needle with a curved tip will be inserted. This will make sure the medication is placed exactly where the spine is injured. Once the medication is inserted, the doctor removes the needle and places a small bandage.
Lumbar Epidural Effectiveness
Most patients do see relief from these types of injections. Up to 90% of patients experienced complete or partial relief from pain. Depending on the seriousness of the issues, these injections can relieve pain for anywhere from one week to a year. This varies greatly, but some people can have lasting relief if they are able to get into physical therapy or other things that will repair the underlying issue without the pain. In many ways, it does seem that it could be worth it to get a lumbar epidural injection so that the patient can experience other treatments pain-free. This can also help decrease a patient’s use of oral pain medications or steroids, which can cause many issues with extensive use.
Lumbar Epidural Side Effects
Some possible side effects of receiving this type of injection include nausea, dizziness, and headache. These are more mild, but the patient can also experience a vasovagal attack, which essentially is that the stress and anxiety of the procedure can lead to raised blood pressure and heart rate, resulting in fainting. These are not severe and the patient can probably return home after the symptoms subside. People may also feel pain during the procedure and after for several days from the injection site. Serious complications are extremely rare, but if the injection is done improperly or if something happens during the actual injection, they can happen. These include nerve damage that may be irreversible, an epidural abscess, an infection of the bone or disc, and loss of bowel control. Also, there are standard risks associated with anesthetics.
Lumbar Epidural Recovery
At times a doctor may want the patient to stay in the hospital overnight or for several hours after the injection to ensure no allergic reactions or side effects occur, but most people can return home shortly after the injection is received. If you start to feel any symptoms after leaving the hospital, please contact your doctor as soon as possible. After a few days, if the pain is still severe, you may need another injection or it may mean that the injection did not work. Talk to your doctor and decide what may work best.
What else do I need to know?
Sometimes, a doctor may not know that surgery is necessary until after these other treatments do not work. Surgery is always something to discuss in detail with your doctor. Orthopedic surgery can be a way to get rid of serious spinal pain for good. There are many different options for torn discs, removing bone spurs, and more. While injections are great for pain relief and almost always work, they do not solve the issue. Surgery may be the way for you to get long-lasting and complete relief. Visit with your doctor to discuss how well lumbar epidural steroid injections may work for you. They will be able to see how your situation might benefit from this. If you are experiencing back pain but have not seen a doctor, don’t put it off, make an appointment today. This can help you to see what will work best for your specific situation.