Unfortunately, there are over 3 million individuals with back pain in the United States each day. This discomfort is equally likely to be caused by poor long-term habits as it is to be caused by a sports injury. Regardless of the cause, coming up with a unique and dedicated pain management plan is critical. When natural pain management techniques like Chiropractic and physical therapy are ineffective, a stronger treatment may be necessary. Spinal epidural injections are extremely effective in treating these difficult conditions, with a concentrated dose of pain relief. Read on to learn more about epidural injections, a common recourse for those with spinal pain.
What Are Epidural Injections?
The overall purpose of an epidural steroid injection is to decrease inflammation and swelling in the spine. In order to accomplish this, the orthopedist injects steroids directly into the epidural space in the spine. Depending on the injury and the required medication, the injection may also flush out other fluids. This is one potential avenue of pain management.
These steroids are injected into the epidural space, which surrounds the dural sac around the spine.
The epidural injection generally contains a few key components:
- Steroid: The steroid acts as an anti-inflammatory agent. Inflammation along the spine is one of the primary causes of back pain, and this acts to reduce it. There are a few common steroids used in this medication, and these are the primary force behind the pain management aspect of the medication.
- Lidocaine: This local anaesthetic is provides pain relief, while also helping to flush out other chemicals that trigger inflammation.
- Saline: This solution also aids in the anti-inflammation process by helping to flush out harmful chemicals.
As a natural response to harmful chemicals, the body’s immune system reacts. Anti-inflammation steroids are designed to limit this immune system response and provide pain management.
How Epidural Injections are Administered
The epidural injection process should take approximately a half hour. To start, the patient should be dressed in a hospital gown, which allows the orthopedist to access the specific point of injection. In order to give the back a natural curve, the patient should lie on the table with a pillow under the stomach. Next, the orthopedist cleans the back, so that a local anaesthetic can be applied. The orthopedist then inserts a needle into the spine, with a live x-ray guiding this process.
After the needle is properly positioned, the orthopedist administers the pain management injection. This process, which is generally not painful, can sometimes still be noticeable. In case of any potential issues, the patient is kept for about 15 minutes after the procedure.
How Many Epidural Injections Should I Receive?
As we mentioned previously, spine conditions can vary a lot when it comes to severity. Patients with a milder diagnosis may require only one injection. Patients with more severe disc diseases like adult degenerative scoliosis will likely benefit from a more consistent schedule, with three injections per year.
If the orthopedist cannot determine a schedule based on the injuries, they may instead administer injections on an as-needed basis. Rather than scheduling patients for injections at various intervals, the orthopedist would only provide injections when they perceive a need. These needs would be based on pain management.
How Long Do Epidural Injections Last?
As far as effects go, the reaction that the body has is largely determined by the individual. Many patients who receive an epidural injection feel the pain relief shortly after the injection. For others, though, the body’s reaction is slightly different. The injection is only effective when the body absorbs the steroids in the appropriate location.
The time that it takes for an epidural injection to take effect also varies by other factors. The other avenues of pain relief that one is pursuing is the most important among these. So, if a patient is also undergoing physical therapy or orthopedic stretches, then they will most likely heal faster.
When can I Resume Normal Activities After an Epidural Injection?
Epidural injections can occasionally take somewhat of a physical toll on patients. Because these steroid injections are only administered a few times each year, patients generally take some time to recover. So, we recommend that patients who receive epidural injections not schedule anything intensive for the remainder of the injection day. Patients should be cleared to participate in normal daily activities the day after the injection.
Epidural steroid injections are also intended to help people with leg and neck pain that originates in the back. Because of its role as a central network within the body, the spine can impact other parts of the body as well. Particularly, when there is pain along the sciatic nerve of the lower back, this impacts the legs. This condition, called sciatica, may be partially treatable through epidural spinal injections.
A Stronger Alternative to Surgery
In most cases, it’s ideal for patients with spinal conditions to avoid surgery. This long process requires ample preparation, and also has a high potential for consequences throughout the pain management process.
After the surgery takes place, the recovery process can also be quite burdensome. It requires routine treatment, stretching, and sometimes, a prescription. Painkillers can quickly become subject to overuse, so refraining from a surgical route should be a priority.
Rather than subjecting patients to months of agony without a distinct end, epidural injections offer a better alternative.
Pain Management Specialists
At Central Orthopedics, our staff take a proactive approach to pain management. We have helped patients from all walks of life through this pain management process. Contact us to begin receiving treatments today.