For patients suffering from lower back, leg, neck or arm-related pain caused by inflamed spinal nerves, an epidural steroid injection (ESI) may offer relief. This minimally invasive procedure has proven effective in minimizing pain, numbness, and muscle weakness as a direct result of chronic inflammation and irritation of the spinal nerves in your spine. ESI may be performed to relieve pain caused by spinal stenosis (narrowing of spaces in your spine, increasing pressure on surrounding tissue), spondylolysis (pain accompanying spine degeneration, bone spurs, osteoarthritis) or disc herniation.
WHAT TO EXPECT
During the procedure, a local anesthetic will be used to numb your skin. It also helps your pain specialist confirm the location of the inflamed nerves and the potency of the injection for you. The doctor will then insert a thin needle directly into the epidural space guided by the fluoroscopy machine (a type of x-ray). A dye may also be injected to further ensure that the needle is at the correct spot. Once the doctor is sure that the needle is correctly placed, the medicine will be injected. A corticosteroid injection provides pain relief after the local anesthetic wears off.
AFTER THE PROCEDURE
Once the procedure is finished, you will be monitored for 30 minutes. Our staff will also provide you with discharge instructions once you are ready to leave. After the procedure, you should track your pain as it helps to assess if the ESI is working. You should be able to return to work the next day, but it is always a good idea to check with your physician first. Muscle and/or nerve irritation may cause you to feel sore for one to four days after the procedure. Your back may feel numb, weak or itchy for a couple of weeks. Maximum pain relief normally comes in two to three weeks.
Epidural steroid injections have been performed for many decades as a very safe and effective treatment option, according to the North American Spine Society. Different patients, however, may experience varying degrees of relief from this procedure. As a result, the ESI might have to be repeated a few times to observe the maximum effect. If the procedure is not effective for your particular condition, your pain specialist will provide you with other treatment options.