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Epidural Injections: Benefits and Side Effects to Consider

Epidural Injections

When you’ve tried all the conventional treatments and your life is still limited by chronic back or neck pain, an epidural injection may provide the relief you need. Our team at Florida Pain Medicine specialize in interventional treatments like epidural injections that help many patients successfully overcome their pain. Here’s the information you need to know about these pain-relieving injections.

Conditions treated by epidural injections

Back and neck pain develop when nerves in your spine are compressed and inflamed. Pinched nerves are also notorious for causing symptoms that follow the length of the nerve. As a result, you can develop severe pain, tingling, numbness, and muscle weakness in your arms and legs.

Compressed nerves may occur following an injury, but they usually develop over time, as age-related problems develop in your spine. Here are just two examples:

Herniated disc

As you get older, the outer covering of vertebral discs weakens, allowing the gel-like material inside the disc to bulge out and compress nearby nerves.

Degenerative disc disease

Your spinal discs contain a high percentage of water. Over time, however, they dry out, collapse, and end up pinching nerves.

Numerous conditions cause spinal stenosis, or narrowing of the spinal canal that compresses nerves, from ligaments that naturally thicken as you get older to bone spurs.

Epidural injection procedure

Epidural injections contain a local anesthetic and a steroid, which are injected into the epidural space alongside your spinal cord. Using real-time imaging to guide the needle, we precisely inject the medications near the pinched nerves.

 

The medications flow around the nerves within the epidural space. The anesthetic provides immediate relief, but its effect is temporary. Steroids reduce inflammation, which provides longer-lasting pain relief.

Benefits of epidural injections

These are the top benefits you’ll gain following an epidural injection:

Pain relief

The purpose of an epidural injection is pain relief. The exact amount of relief, and how long it will last, varies for each patient because everyone responds to medications differently.

Some patients experience moderate pain relief; for others, the relief is significant. Even mild pain relief, however, is a vast improvement when severe back, leg, neck, or arm pain have restricted your activities or caused disability.

Your pain relief may last weeks or years. It’s frustrating to not be able to tell you exactly what to expect, but this wide range highlights the differences among patients.

Ability to participate in physical therapy

One of the great benefits of relieving your pain is that it allows you to participate in your physical therapy or structured exercise program. Physical therapy strengthens muscles, reduces inflammation, and improves your range of motion — all of which help to relieve your pain for the long run.

Reduce the need for pain-relieving medication

If you’re taking pain relievers prior to your epidural injection, you should be able to lower the dose after your injection. Some patients find that they can eliminate their medication altogether.

Avoid or delay surgical procedures

If your doctor has recommended surgery to repair the problem causing your pain, getting a minimally invasive epidural injection may help you enough that you can delay or avoid surgery.

A surgical procedure may seem like your best option — and for some it provides the pain relief they need — but it’s far from a sure thing. It’s estimated that 10-40% of patients getting lower back surgery continue to have pain after their surgical intervention.

Possible side effects caused by epidural injections

It’s important to know that side effects and complications are possible, but they’re rare following an epidural injection. There are potential problems associated with the injection and the steroid medication.

 

Risks from inserting the needle include:

Steroid-related side effects include:

If you have diabetes, a steroid injection may increase your blood sugar levels. Steroids can also weaken your vertebrae and nearby muscles, but this problem is avoided by limiting the number of injections to three or four over the course of a year.

The best way to evaluate the benefits versus the potential side effects of an epidural injection is to schedule an appointment at Florida Pain Medicine and let us do a personal risk assessment based on your medical history.

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