Epidural steroid injections are a safe, effective and minimally invasive means of controlling spine and extremity pain caused by bulging discs, surgical scar tissue or degenerative disc changes. These injections control pain by reducing inflammation and swelling. Rather than simply masking the symptoms, epidural steroid injections address the actual cause of pain and can control symptoms for prolonged time periods.
The goal is to inject the medication as close to the pain source as possible, using one of two types of injections. Which injection we use will depend on your condition and which procedure will likely produce the best result, we determine this upon proper diagnosis.
A brief increase in discomfort for one to two days after the injections is common and nothing to be concerned about. The steroid injection will reduce inflammation and pain after two to three days. Most patients experience a 50 percent or greater reduction in radicular pain that lasts for weeks to years. Radicular pain is pain that is "radiated" along the sensory distribution of a nerve due to inflammation or other irritation of the nerve root at its connection to the spinal column.
One type of injection that is used is called a "Translaminar" injection. This injection delivers medication into the epidural space adjacent to the inflamed or degenerated disc, bathing the irritated nerve roots in a potent anti-inflammatory steroid solution. Medication is simultaneously delivered to the nerve roots on both the right and left sides of the inflamed area. Translaminar injections are often done in the office without x-ray or fluoroscopic guidance. X-rays may be needed in special cases, such as with a patient who has had back surgery or has spinal problems.
The second type of injection we use is called a "Transforaminal" injection. This injection delivers medication at the opening for a specific nerve root and into the adjacent epidural space. Transforaminal injections are often done in the office and require the use of fluoroscopic x-ray for a more precise needle placement.
Epidural steroid injections may be repeated up to three times within a six-month period. It is best to limit the patient’s exposure to steroids, as high dosages can cause side effects.
Epidural steroid injections are safe and unlikely to result in a complication. Approximately 10 percent of patients may experience side effects that last a few days following the injection, including:
- Hyperactivity, sleeplessness
- Lethargy, drowsiness
- Mood swings
- Night sweats
- Temporary increase in appetite
- Temporary increase in blood glucose levels (diabetic patients)
- Fluid retention
All of these side effects are temporary and generally last no longer than two to three days. Oracle Pain Clinic can treat more serious side effects with medications.