There are many benefits to having a doctor administer an epidural injection into your neck or back. The pain relief medications such as lidocaine or procaine are nearly instantaneous. The procedure can also deliver steroids that act quickly to reduce swelling in your spine. This reduces pressure on the nerve that is sending pain signals to your brain.
Epidural injections are typically performed on an outpatient basis. The pain relief and reduction of inflammation lasts for several days to several months. If the swelling is eliminated, your pain may go away entirely with no other treatments needed.
Uses for Epidural Injections
Epidural injections into the neck or back are used to treat radicular pain. This is a type of pain that radiates from a pinched nerve in the spine to another location of your body. A common type of radicular pain is sciatica. This pain results from a pinched nerve in your lumbar vertebrae and causes numbness, tingling. and pain in your buttocks and legs. Epidural injections in the neck or back are also used by doctors to treat inflammation. You may have inflammation resulting from a herniated disc, spinal stenosis, an injury, or nerve damage. Epidural injections can also be performed by your doctor if you have a tumor near your spine that is aggravating one or more nerves and causing pain.
Candidates for Epidural Injections
You may be a candidate for an epidural injection in the neck or back if you have severe acute pain caused by an injury such as a fall or an auto accident. You may also qualify to have an epidural injection into your neck or back performed by our doctor if you have chronic pain that has not responded to oral medications, physical therapy, and other types of treatment such as transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) therapy. If you have a known disorder of the spine, such as spinal stenosis, disc herniation, cysts, compression fractures, or an annular tear, you may also benefit for an epidural injection to treat the problem.
How Epidural Injections Are Performed
An epidural injection into your neck or back is performed by a physician trained in pain relief and anesthesiology. Your doctor will locate the space between two of your vertebrae. Your skin will be cleaned with a disinfectant to avoid the introduction of bacteria. You will then be given a local anesthetic shot into the skin before the epidural injection is delivered. This is done to numb the area.
A long, thin needle is used to reach this space. The epidural space encircles the dural sac that surrounds your spine. It contains your spinal cord, nerve roots, and cerebrospinal fluid.
Your doctor will fill a syringe with one or more medications. The medications may include corticosteroids that are designed to reduce inflammation, anesthetics that are designed to minimize pain, and other medications for relief of pain and swelling and for reduction of excessive immune system activity. In some situations, your doctor might perform an epidural injection using fluoroscopy technology. This involves the use of a dye administered with the injection. The dye shows up on an X-ray, and the X-ray is performed at the same time as the procedure so that your doctor can see the exact location of the needle during the injection. The epidural injection procedure only takes a few minutes. Because the procedure could result in numbness, you will need to have a friend or family member with you in order to take you home.
What to Expect After Epidural Injections
During the procedure, you might feel some tingling as the medication is absorbed into your nerves. As your nerves absorb the medicine, you may start to feel a reduction in pain or some numbness. These effects reach their maximum within just a minute or two. Within 30 minutes to 48 hours of an epidural injection, you should have a drastic reduction in pain. It is important to note that each patient’s body absorbs the medication differently. However, you should enjoy a reduction in pain that lasts for anywhere from a few weeks to several months.