In recent statistics gathered by United Healthcare, a staggering 90% of Americans will suffer with lower back pain at some point in their lifetime. In what has become the most common procedure for lumbar pain, the epidural steroid injection is a highly effective, minimally invasive treatment that can be administered in less than 30 minutes.
What conditions are treatable with Epidural Steroid Injections?
This type of injection is an effective treatment for conditions involving a pinched or compressed spinal nerve. Symptoms from nerve compression and be sciatica, numbness, lower back pain, and radiculopathy (radiating pain). Degenerative disc disease may cause damage to the discs resulting in pain and tingling, as well as spinal stenosis and inflammatory arthritis.
The most common application of this treatment is to gain pain relief for a spinal nerve being affected from a herniated or bulging spinal disc. Damage to the discs can result in inflammation that may compress any nerve in proximity to the disc(s). Lumbar epidural steroid injections have been very successful in treating symptomatic pain of the lower back. In some discogenic cases, an alleviation of pain has been felt within minutes post-procedurally.
How is the Epidural Steroid Injection treatment procedure performed?
Our clinic performs epidural steroid injection as an outpatient treatment using only local anesthesia at the site of injection. Full sedation is available. This treatment is administered while the patient is lying in a prone position, so the practitioner has clear access to the spine. Our clinic utilizes specialized imagery (fluoroscopic) to guide the needle into the proper position for the optimum outcome.
There are three methods of injection for this procedure:
The Transforaminal Injection in this method, the epidural steroid injection is directly administered into the neural foreman (the nerve roots structural housing). This is considered the fastest acting injection as the medication is directly placed along the problematic nerve, allowing for a shorter wait time before the patient can feel the effects.
The Caudal Injection is considered the most common delivery method of the three. In this method multiple nerve roots can be treated with one session. The sacrum is the area of injection at the base of the spine. The caudal method uses the largest amount of medication administered into the epidural space.
The Interlaminar Injection in this method, practitioners use what is called a “loss of resistance” technique when placing the needle into the epidural space. The treatment is administered near the nerve root in the area located that has the least amount of resistance.
How long do the Epidural Steroid Injections last as a treatment?
Results of effectiveness can vary with each patient. The success of the injections can be dependent on many complex factors, and typically ranges from 75-90% in dozens of research studies. The effects may last anywhere from a few days to a few months, and they can be repeated every few months.
Our Board Certified Colorado pain management doctors will work with patients to tailor a personal pain management program on a case-by-case basis.
What risk or side effects are there when you are treated with Epidural Steroid Injections?
This is a very low risk treatment, with minimal side effects. Post-procedural soreness and redness for 2 to 3 days at the injection site is the most common side effect. In rare cases, patient may experience an allergic reaction to the medication so it is important to inform your doctor if you have experienced any reactions to the medications used in the past.
How successful are Epidural Steroid Injections in the relief of pain?
When administered correctly, usually with the proper placement guided by fluoroscopic imagery, studies show that 50% of all patients received a degree of pain relief with lumbar epidural steroid injections. Up to 30% reported successfully eliminating all pain symptoms; this result was more typically shown concerning cases of primary radicular symptoms (pain radiating down one or both legs).
Bottom line on this treatment?
Overall quality of life can be improved with the alleviation of pain. Successful injections can potentially provide an alternative to invasive surgery, while offering a low risk and minimally invasive treatment for the patient.