What is an epidural steroid injection?
The epidural space is the area surrounding the spinal cord and the nerves that come out of it. When a patient experiences pain, numbness or signs of discomfort in that area, epidural steroid injections may be used as a way of reducing inflammation around the nerves in that area, therefore decreasing the pain and other symptoms.
Epidural steroid injections are just as the name suggests: steroid injections in the epidural space. The procedure involves injecting a long lasting medication into the epidural space that is usually combined with a small dose of anesthetic, something very similar to Novocain.
The injection procedure doesn’t take longer than a few minutes, and before it is administered, the patient’s back is washed with soap in order to clean the area and maintain a sterile environment. During the procedure, in order to assure a precise guiding of the needle to the target location, the Boulder pain management doctor will use fluoroscopy, which is a real-time X-ray that is used to verify the exact placement of the needle. The patient will be injected with a special X-ray dye fluid that will rapidly spread within the epidural space to confirm accuracy as well.
Do epidural steroid injections hurt?
The epidural steroid injection typically doesn’t hurt, but obviously, when the needle is inserted you will feel a sting, and then a bit of pressure as the needle goes through the back muscles. Some might describe this as a slight pain.
For those who are especially anxious about the procedure, the Loveland pain doctor may offer the possibility for an intravenous sedative to be administered in order to increase your comfort. The sedative will not put you to sleep, but it will make you feel very relaxed during the procedure.
What can I expect after the procedure?
The local anesthetic administered during the procedure as well as the sedative will cause some drowsiness and a bit of numbness afterwards. The only pain you might feel is a mild discomfort at the site of the injection. This tenderness is easily remedied with an over-the-counter pain reliever like Tylenol or even just some ice on the site.
Right after the procedure is done, the patient is advised to relax for the rest of the day. Most patients who opt to have the procedure without the use of the IV sedative are able to return to work and their regular activities the same day, while the ones that choose the intravenous medication are advised to avoid driving and to take it easy until the next day so that the sedative has ample time to wear off.
The results of each injection vary from person to person, but it’s common for patients to have between one to three injections, depending of the effect following each injection. For some, the pain goes away right after the first injection, for others it goes away only partially and they need to repeat the injection once in two to three weeks. There are minor cases where patients to not experience a pain relief at all or they notice only a slight relief after the injections are done. In this case, doctors will recommend either injecting a different epidural space or using a different type of injection medication.