If you are suffering from neck or back pain that travels to your extremities, your doctor may recommend an epidural injection to provide you with pain relief.
The epidural injection procedure involves the X-ray guided injection of medications, usually a pain reliever (anesthetic) and an anti-inflammatory (steroid) into an area called the epidural space. The epidural space is just outside the spinal cord and very close to the nerves of the spine. Several conditions can cause irritation or injury to the nerves of the spine. The irritated or injured nerves transmit pain signals to the brain through the spinal cord. The medications injected into the epidural space reduce inflammation in the spinal nerves as well as block the pain signals from reaching the brain.
An epidural injection is a five to fifteen minute procedure that can be carried out in an outpatient surgery center and does not require you to be admitted to a hospital.
Epidural injections are often used to treat pain related to:
- Sciatica – low back pain that travels to the legs
- Spinal stenosis – narrowing of the lower spine
- Radiculopathy – nerve damage that causes pain to radiate to other areas of the body
- Degenerative disk disease – break down of disks between vertebrae of the spine
- Nerve compression
During the procedure, a local anesthetic is used to numb the skin surrounding the injection site. The local anesthetic can sting for a couple of seconds as the skin becomes numb. You may request light intravenous sedation to enhance your comfort during the procedure. A specialized needle is then used, with live X-ray guidance to enter the epidural space. Generally, a small amount of contrast dye is injected next to confirm that the medication will reach the appropriate target. Next, the medications are injected through the needle into the precise area that is
potentially causing your pain.
The pain relief received through this procedure can last from days to years, and everyone’s pain relief is unique. The procedure can be repeated if the pain returns.