A pinched nerve can make it difficult for a patient to do the things they love. If left untreated, pinched nerves can cause numbness, muscle weakness, and chronic back or neck pain. Fortunately, the conditions that cause nerve irritation often can be treated without surgery. Non-invasive treatments such as an epidural steroid injection can reduce symptoms. Learn more about epidural steroid injections and their role in pain management from Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics (CNSO), the most comprehensive spine center in New Jersey.
What Is An Epidural Steroid Injection?
An epidural steroid injection is a non-surgical procedure used to treat back pain. A provider injects a combination of local anesthetic and corticosteroid medication into the epidural space, the area between the spinal cord and the vertebral canal. The medication decreases inflammation, resulting in pain relief.
During the procedure, the patient will lie comfortably on their back or side. To perform the injection, a pain management doctor will use fluoroscopy (real-time X-ray guidance) to place a needle in the precise location of the epidural space. The procedure normally takes just a few minutes, and the patient will be monitored for 15 to 20 minutes afterward. Epidural steroid injections should only be repeated if the pain subsides but then reoccurs. No more than three or four injections should be done over the course of one year. If the pain continues to return, the care type must be advanced.
What Conditions Can An Epidural Steroid Injection Treat?
A variety of conditions can compress and irritate the spinal nerves. When a spinal nerve becomes pinched and irritated, the inflammation can lead to pain, weakness, or numbness in the area where the nerve travels. This radiating pain in the arms and legs is known as radiculopathy.
Spine conditions that cause symptoms which may be treated by epidural steroid injections include:
- Bone spurs of the spine: An osteophyte, commonly known as a bone spur, is a bony growth that develops when joint damage, typically from osteoarthritis, breaks down the cartilage that cushions the bones.
- Herniated disc: Also known as a slipped disc, this condition develops when the outer ring of an intervertebral disc weakens or cracks, causing the disc’s soft, jelly-like center to push out.
- Spinal stenosis: This is a narrowing of one or more spaces in the spine, usually in the lumbar spine. With less space in the spinal canal, the nerve roots are more likely to be irritated.
Why Choose an Epidural Steroid Injection?
There are many reasons a provider might recommend an epidural steroid injection. Benefits include:
- No opioid medication: Epidural steroid injections do not require opioids to relieve pain. These medications coincide with several adverse symptoms.
- Non-invasive treatment: These injections can be performed as an in-office procedure. They do not require incisions or a hospital stay.
- Fast relief: Many patients experience less pain within a few hours after the procedure. For some patients, symptom relief lasts for several months.
- No drowsiness: Unlike some pain medications, the corticosteroids in the injection do not cause drowsiness.
- Minimal downtime: Patients can go home once the procedure is complete, and most can resume normal activities the following day.
Who Is a Good Candidate for Epidural Steroid Injections?
Typically, epidural steroid injections are a good fit for patients who:
- Have chronic neck or back pain caused by irritation to one or more spinal nerves
- Have not experienced significant pain relief through treatments such as physical therapy
Patients with back pain caused by disc herniation, cervical or lumbar radiculopathy, and spinal stenosis may be good candidates for an epidural steroid injection. Patients on blood thinners may need to avoid taking their medication before the procedure to prevent excessive bleeding. A provider may not recommend an epidural steroid injection if a patient has a bleeding disorder or is allergic to the injected medication.
Conservative Treatment Options at CNSO
At CNSO, every evaluation involves consideration of whether an evidence-based, non-invasive technique can effectively treat the patient. Although CNSO provides advanced surgical care, the medical team uses conservative options to treat back pain wherever possible. In addition to epidural steroid injections, patients may benefit from treatments such as:
- Physical therapy
- Oral pain medications
- Heat, ice, and rest
CNSO offers telemedicine to ensure patients can be evaluated even when they are not able to schedule an in-person appointment. Additionally, CNSO has providers fluent in Spanish, Korean, Russian, Serbo-Croatian, and Mandarin Chinese, so patients can receive care in the language they are most comfortable speaking.
Schedule an Appointment Today
Serving patients throughout northern New Jersey and the surrounding area, the award-winning medical staff at CNSO is known for personalized care. As the state’s most comprehensive spine center, CNSO boasts a team of board-certified neurosurgeons, orthopedic spine surgeons, interventional pain management physicians, physiatrists, rehabilitation specialists, and certified physical therapists, working together to offer coordinated care. The comprehensive care team is experienced in a wide range of treatments, from pain management and physical therapy to surgery if necessary. To learn more or request an appointment at one of our convenient locations in New Jersey, contact us today.