Epidural injections are steroid treatments that can soothe nerve pain and reduce swelling, pressure and inflammation in and around the spinal column, for patients suffering debilitating spinal pain, and in some cases, referred leg or hip pain and other conditions. Epidural injections involve using a needle to place medication into the so-called epidural space, which lies just outside of the sac of fluid surrounding the spinal cord.
How Epidural Injections Work
While the immediate benefits of epidural injections – namely, pain relief – are not a permanent pain management solution, the reduction in inflammation allows the body time to repair itself and for the hormones the steroid injections mimic – cortisone and hydrocortisone – to replenish within the patient’s body.
In other words, epidural injections mimic the body’s natural pain relief and inflammation repair, giving the body’s innate spinal pain management system, and the surrounding muscle groups, time for rest and renewal. The goal is for the patient’s body and natural hormones to gradually reach a point of balance in which the epidural injections are needed less frequently.
Conditions for Treatment
Epidural injections can be used to treat pain associated with a number of different spinal conditions, including but not limited to:
- Herniated or bulging spinal discs
- Axial and discogenic pain
- Central spinal stenosis
- Facet joint pain
- Chronic neck pain
- Post-operative spinal pain
- Referred leg pain
- Nerve pain and compressed nerve
Benefits of Injections
There are numerous benefits to epidural injections, including:
- Cost-effective alternative to spinal surgery
- Avoiding or delaying spinal surgery
- Conducted in an outpatient or medical office setting as opposed to hospital
- Minimal pain
- Generally safe procedure with low risk for serious complications
- Pain-relief and inflammation reduction can be long-lasting, often a few months
Epidural injections may not be right for every patient and should be carefully decided on a case-by-case basis with an experienced spinal surgeon who can help the patient weigh the pros and cons of the procedure. Some of the reasons patients might elect to avoid epidural injections include that they:
- Do not cure the underlying cause of pain
- May need to be repeated up to three times per year
- May or may not be covered by Medicare
- Sometimes require a waiting period, since some surgeons prefer to take a conservative pain management approach for at least six weeks before trying epidural injections
- May be more effective for certain spinal conditions than others
Working with a Spinal Surgeon
Each patient’s timeline for restoration differs depending on the individual factors contributing to causing the injury. An experienced spinal surgeon can examine a patient’s health history and evaluate whether epidural injections would be an advantageous part of a spinal pain management treatment plan.