Epidural steroid injections (ESIs) are a non-invasive method of managing pain, reducing inflammation, and promoting healing around the spine. The word “epidural” refers to the region surrounding the spinal cord.
Oftentimes, pain around or radiating from the spine is caused by pressure on the spinal cord due to inflammation or swelling around the nerves. When a steroid (a drug specifically designed to reduce inflammation) is injected into the epidural space, there can be quick and long lasting pain relief benefits.
Epidural steroid injections are most commonly used in the cervical spine (neck and upper back) or the lumbar spine (lower back). While the process itself is the same in both regions, because of the difference in the body’s makeup, cervical and lumbar injections require different specific tools and techniques.
United Spine and Ortho’s spine center in Atlanta performs epidural steroid injections to patients suffering from pain caused by inflammation and swelling.
The process of receiving an epidural steroid injection is similar among pain management clinics in Atlanta, GA. Your doctor may instruct you not to eat anything for 6-12 hours prior to your ESI appointment. During the procedure, you’ll typically lie face down. Fluoroscopy is often used to ensure that the steroid reaches the correct depth and location within the spine.
After a local anesthetic is injected into the back or neck, an epidural needle is carefully guided to the precise location to provide the most relief. Once the position has been confirmed, a small amount of a steroid is injected. You may feel pressure or a slight tingling sensation in your neck, back, and/or legs, but this will go away quickly.
As with any medical procedure, each person’s recovery will vary. In many cases, an epidural steroid injection can take as little as 20-30 minutes, not including evaluation and observation time.
Epidural steroid injections are typically performed on an outpatient basis, meaning you will be able to return home on the same day. Driving or operating other machinery is not recommended for 24 hours due to the use of localized anesthetics.
Shortly after the procedure is completed, there is an observation period of about 30-60 minutes to make sure that no complications arise. Your doctor will take note of any significant changes in how you react to the injection. They will closely monitor how you feel, observe how you move, and see how your body responds to the medication.
For some, this minimally invasive procedure can have long-lasting effects and may not need to be repeated. Others may require multiple sessions (usually no more than one every 4 months).
Epidural steroid injections typically have no side effects. Side effects can occur in rare cases, and may include:
- Bleeding at the injection site
- Infection at the injection site
- Allergic reaction to steroids
- Nerve injury
- Transient flushing/hot flashes
- Fluid retention
- Weight gain
- Elevated blood sugar
- Mood swings
As with any side effects of medical procedures, be sure to talk to your doctor about any reactions that develop. Also, let your doctor know if you have any known allergies, are taking medications, or have experienced negative side effects from steroids before.
Epidural steroid injections can be used to treat:
- Bone spurs
- Facet joint or nerve root cysts
- Herniated discs
- Spinal compression fractures
- Spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spine)
- Other conditions causing nerve root irritation (radiculopathy) and sciatica
As a non-invasive treatment, epidural steroid injections are usually coupled with physical therapy to promote a complete return to function.
Epidural steroid injections are a low risk, simple medical procedure for pain management in Atlanta. This makes them a good choice for anyone dealing with these conditions whose condition is not severe enough to merit surgery, or who wants to avoid surgical intervention.