What is an epidural steroid injection?
Epidural steroid injection, or ESI, is one of the standard non-surgical treatment options for chronic back pain. With this procedure, a doctor delivers pain medicine into the body through an injection to the epidural space. The epidural space is an area of the spinal cord filled with fat, protecting the nerves from damage. The medication consists of a steroid and anesthetic. The steroid sends signals to the brain, restricting pain receptors.
What are the benefits of epidural steroid injection?
Steroid injections have been used for decades in different scenarios involving pain. Concerning back pain, there are several fantastic benefits. For starters, steroids reduce inflammatory chemicals and minimize the sensitivity of the nerve fibers to pain. The shot also reduces the need for oral medication, particularly opioids, which can be addictive. For some, steroid injections help postpone surgery and try other alternatives, like physical therapy. Whatever the reason, these injections work best if other non-surgical options fail.
Debunking a common myth
At the onset, a back patient must know that the epidural steroid injection only provides short-term relief. Many believe the common myth that steroid injections are a permanent solution. The effects last from a few weeks up to 1 year at most. If effective, future injections are possible. A doctor can give up to 3 injections yearly, spaced at least a month apart.
What are the risks?
Generally, epidural steroid injections are safe. Yet, there are still temporary side effects that some may experience. Some patients report a headache that lasts for a few days. Other mild side effects include nausea, dizziness, and flushing of the face. These symptoms resolve within a few minutes to hours. Steroid injections can also cause sleeping problems, anxiety, menstrual changes, and excess water retention. The administering doctor will outline risks, contingencies and outline any concerns.
Should I try an epidural steroid injection?
If someone has chronic back pain that does not subside over several months, a steroid injection is a viable option. If the pain spreads down to the leg, a symptom known as sciatica, consider an injection. If other treatments such as NSAIDs, physical therapy, and temperature therapy fails, speak with a doctor immediately. An ESI is also an excellent option to delay surgery. With an ESI, a patient can work on getting the back better through exercise and physical therapy.