Updated: Mar 24, 2022
If you suffer with back or neck pain, you have a lot of company. Research shows as many as 80% of American adults suffer from back or neck pain at some point in their lives, and many of those people will have chronic or recurrent bouts of symptoms that can take a major toll on their lives.
Often, back and neck pain stems from nerve irritation or compression in your spine — specifically, in the areas where the nerves leave the spinal canal and travel to other parts of your body, like your legs or arms.
At Woodbury Spine, Evan O’Brien, MD, uses state-of-the-art epidural steroid injections to help relieve pain caused by spinal nerve compression. Here’s what to expect during and after an epidural steroid injection.
Epidural injections 101
When most people think of epidural injections, they think of the injections given to pregnant women to relieve labor pains. But epidural injections are also widely used to relieve chronic types of pain caused by nerve irritation and inflammation.
The epidural space is located between the outer “wall” of your spinal bones (the vertebrae) and the membrane that protects the spinal cord (and the nerves inside it). This space contains blood vessels, fat, and other components.
Epidural injections contain steroids to help reduce inflammation (swelling) that can compress the nerves as they exit the spine. Injections also typically contain a small amount of anesthetic to keep you comfortable during your injection and to provide some immediate — albeit temporary — pain relief.
Epidural injections can be used to relieve pain related to an array of health issues, including:
Degenerative disc disease
Radiculopathy (pain radiating into the arms or legs)
Plus, injections can be repeated to provide extended relief from painful symptoms.
What to expect during and after injection
Before your injection, you’ll receive a sedative through an IV in your arm to help you relax throughout the procedure. The injection site is cleaned and numbed with a local anesthetic, then a fluoroscopy X-ray is used to determine the exact needle placement.
Dr. O’Brien inserts a very thin needle into the epidural space, injecting a small amount of contrast dye to confirm the needle placement. Once the needle is in place, he injects the steroid medication, which is usually mixed with a little anesthetic. The injection procedure typically takes about 15-20 minutes.
After your injection, you’ll spend a little time in a recovery area before being discharged home. You need to avoid driving for at least 12 hours after your injection, so you should have someone with you to drive you home after your appointment.
The anesthetic used in most injections wears off within a few hours, and it’s not uncommon to have some discomfort around the injection site. You can apply ice packs to relieve injection site discomfort, but don’t use heat, don’t rub the area, and avoid sitting in a tub for the first 24 hours (showers are OK).
It takes anywhere from a few days to two weeks for the steroids to take effect, and you can expect to have some degree of symptoms until then. Once they take effect, steroid injections can provide symptom relief that lasts several months. Injections can be administered up to four times a year, depending on your specific needs and health profile.
Get relief for your painful symptoms
Don’t let chronic pain take over your life. At Woodbury Spine, we work with you to develop a treatment regimen aimed at helping you find relief for painful symptoms, so you can get back to enjoying the activities you love. To learn more about epidural injections and other treatments we offer at our practice in Woodbury, New Jersey, call the office or book an appointment online.