There are many things to consider when thinking of how to find pain relief from spinal problems. Some people are concerned about becoming addicted to pain medications whereas others do not like needles. However, if you have exhausted all other types of pain relief measures, such as medication and physical therapy, you may be a good candidate for an epidural.
What is an Epidural Injection?
Epidurals are prescribed for pain that spreads from the lower back to the hip or to the leg. Pain like this is usually from pressure on a nerve, like a bulging disc, that causing pain to radiate from the lower back to the thigh. An epidural medication is an injection into the spine that reduces back pain and inflammation. It consists of a steroid and a numbing medication that will help with the swelling and the pain. While most people get relief from it, some may not.
Who can get an epidural?
Doctors usually prescribe an epidural to treat two types of major back problems: spinal stenosis and radiculopathy. There are some other types of back issues that a doctor may use the injections for as well. Spinal stenosis involves the lower spine; it narrows and compresses the nerves inside causing pain to radiate to the buttocks or leg. Activity may make the pain worse, however, leaning forward helps relieve it.
If there is inflammation or damage to a nerve in the neck or lower back, it could indicate radiculopathy. It is evident by sharp pain shooting from the lower back down either one or both of the legs. It could originate in the neck as well and the pain will shoot to the arms. A herniated disc is something that can be responsible for radiculopathy.
How is an epidural injection done?
The word epidural means around the spinal cord, so the injections are administered in that area. Anesthesiologists can give them as well as specialized radiologists and other health professionals experienced in giving epidurals.
An imaging test is done before the injection is given. They may use a CT scan or an MRI to get a view of your back. The test can tell the physician possible causes of the back pain as well. At the doctor’s office, you will lie face down on the exam table. Sedation may be given but often times are not.
• The skin will be cleansed and an anesthetic will be used to numb the area.
• A needle will be inserted through the skin to the spine.
• A machine called the fluoroscopy will be used to offer a visualization of your spine so he/she knows where the epidural space is. The doctor can place the needle in between the bones of the spine.
• The contrast dye that had been injected in you will let the doctor confirm that the needle in in the right area.
• Once the needle is in position, the steroid medication with anesthetic medication will be injected into the epidural space.
This procedure should not have much pain or discomfort since numbing medication had been used from the beginning of the procedure. Many people will have some mild tenderness in the injection area for a few days.