Many people have heard of the epidural as a pain relief option for women during childbirth, but that isn’t its only purpose. An epidural can also be an effective pain management and treatment option for those experiencing back pain. Let’s learn more about this procedure by exploring 10 facts about the epidural.
Fact #1- Epidurals for Labor and Delivery are Different from Epidurals for Back Pain
While the procedure is very similar when administering a labor and delivery epidural and a back pain epidural, the types of medication used will vary quite a bit. Epidurals for back pain often contain a corticosteroid (a powerful anti-inflammatory) to reduce swelling and discomfort. Epidural steroid injections are also commonly guided by fluoroscopy to ensure that the treatment is placed at the exact point of the problem.
Fact #2- Epidural Steroid Injects Use Two Different Pain Relief Medicines
Epidural steroid injects often use two different medications to treat back pain. The first is usually a numbing agent like Lidocaine to provide immediate pain relief. The second medication is a steroid that will work to reduce inflammation and discomfort. Steroids don’t reduce pain as quickly as the numbing agent, but provide a longer lasting effect.
Fact #3- Back Pain, Nausea and Headache Are Potential Side Effects of an Epidural Steroid Injection
Side effects from an epidural injection are rare and when they do occur they are often minor. Side effects can include back pain or tenderness at the injection site, feeling sick to your stomach or vomiting, dizziness and headache. Serious side effects happen very rarely and include bleeding, infection, nerve root injury and meningitis. Various physical and mental conditions can impact your risk for side effects. Talk with your doctor about any concerns you may have regarding side effects and the risks of this treatment.
Fact #4- Epidural Injections Are a Short Term Pain Relief Solution
Epidural injections can be an effective pain relief solution, but the effects typically only last 2-3 weeks. Epidural injections are a treatment option, but are not a cure for spinal stenosis or other conditions.
Fact #5- Can Be An Effective Treatment for Spinal Stenosis and Other Conditions
Epidural steroid injections can be used to provide temporary pain relief for a variety of different conditions including spinal stenosis, herniated discs and degenerative disc disease.
Fact #6- The Length of Pain Relief Varies from Patient to Patient
The effectiveness of this treatment can vary from patient to patient. Pain relief if present can be few days to few weeks. There is a wide range reported by patients regarding the duration of benefit.
Fact #7- Epidural Injections Can Increase Discomfort in Patients with Some Congenital Problems
If spinal stenosis is caused by a congenital problem like a small spinal column the epidural injection may actually increase pain and discomfort. This treatment is more effective for those suffering from the spinal stenosis due to osteoarthritis and other degenerative diseases.
Fact #8- Imaging Scans or Fluoroscopy Are Often Used to Guide the Needle in this Procedure
During the procedure your doctor will probably use a fluoroscope (live x-ray) to guide the needle to the correct location. This helps to ensure that the medication will be able to treat the nerves that are causing the discomfort.
Fact #9- Epidural Injections Can Be Completed on an Outpatient Basis
You don’t have to spend time in the hospital to get an epidural injection. We can typically complete this procedure in our offices. We do ask that you bring someone along to drive you home since you won’t be able to drive for a short time after your procedure.
Fact #10- Your Doctor Can Determine if an Epidural Can Help You with Your Back Pain
Your doctor will be the judge of if this procedure is right for you. Talk with them and ask any questions that you may have.
An epidural steroid injection is just one of many pain relief options for those experiencing back pain. If you have back pain there are things that we can do. Contact us at the Spine Institute Northwest and let us help you manage your back and spine pain.