What Type of Back Pain Is Relieved by a Transforaminal Injection?

A neurosurgeon using a lumbar vertebra model and spine X-ray to explain spinal surgery

Patients with chronic back pain know that it can interrupt their daily lives. While oral medications and physical therapy can mitigate symptoms, a transforaminal injection can help address the root cause of some types of back pain. Find out more about this pain management technique and procedure plus the kinds of back pain conditions it can treat. Contact the experts at Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics who provide compassionate care for patients throughout northern New Jersey.

What Is a Transforaminal Injection?

When a nerve is compressed or irritated, it can lead to radiating, persistent back pain. Steroid medication can reduce the inflammation around the nerve root and relieve the patient’s pain. A transforaminal injection delivers both steroid medication and anesthetic to the area where a nerve exits the spinal column.

A transforaminal injection can also serve as a diagnostic tool when there are multiple potential underlying causes of a patient’s back pain. If an injection treatment is effective, it helps confirm the nerve root is the source of pain. If a neurosurgeon needs to confirm which nerve root is causing the symptoms, a transforaminal injection using only local anesthesia is performed. When only local anesthesia is injected, it is considered a selective nerve root block though the terms are used interchangeably.

Back Pain That Can Be Treated Using a Transforaminal Injection

A transforaminal corticosteroid injection is considered a conservative treatment method that can help patients avoid surgical intervention by reducing the swelling of the affected nerve root. Transforaminal injections can help manage pain caused by conditions such as:

  • Degenerative disc disease: Wear and tear on spinal discs cause the discs to become misshapen resulting in a loss of height in the discs and pressure on the surrounding root nerves.
  • Herniated disc: Same as a slipped disc, and also a bulging disc pressure is place on the adjacent nerves due to the spine disc either tearing or losing its shape due to either an injury or a congenital defect.
  • Radiculopathy: Often presenting as pain, numbness or a tingling sensation in the neck or lower back along with the same symptoms radiating down the neck or leg respectively, radiculopathy caused by a pinched or compressed nerve.
  • Sciatica: This chronic condition is caused by pressure on the sciatic nerve, often leading to pain that radiates down the back of a patient’s leg.
  • Spinal stenosis: This is a narrowing of the spinal column, often caused by osteoarthritis, which can compress nerves and result in chronic pain.

What to Expect During an Injection Treatment

A transforaminal injection is 20-minute procedure that can be performed in an outpatient setting. Typically, the patient lies on their stomach during the injection and is awake throughout the procedure. There is little to no discomfort because a local anesthetic is first placed to numb the injection site.

Standard procedure is for a pain management doctor to use a fluoroscopy machine which is for X-ray guidance during the procedure to ensure the medication is injected at the same level of the spine that is believed to be the root cause of the patient’s discomfort. With one injection, both numbing medication and a corticosteroid will be placed in the area of the offending nerve root. After the injection is complete, the doctor will apply a regular band-aid.

Many patients experience some immediate relief because of the local anesthetic. It takes up to a couple of days for the steroid medication to begin to have a pain-relieving effect because it has reduced the swelling of the nerve sufficiently. While each patient is different, some individuals have permanent relief, or significant reduction in the amount of discomfort they had been experiencing. For some an injection treatment can provide several months of pain relief. If the discomfort returns, a repeat injection can be performed but no more than four transforaminal injections at the same level of the spine in one year. If the pain continues to return, the patient should be advanced to a neurosurgeon/spine surgeon for consideration of a surgical solution.

Patients may experience pain or tenderness at the injection site after a transforaminal injection. An ice pack can help with any discomfort. Avoid applying heat to the injection site.

Choose CNSO for Expert Pain Management

Patients with back pain that includes radiculopathy can experience relief with a transforaminal injection. The award-winning pain specialists at Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics (CNSO) offer individualized treatment plans to identify the root cause of a patient’s pain and develop the most effective course of treatment. With multiple locations in northern New Jersey, CNSO serves patients in Bergen, Passaic, Essex, Morris, and Hudson counties. To serve a broader range of patients, CNSO has medical staff fluent in the following languages besides English:

  • Korean
  • Mandarin Chinese
  • Russian
  • Serbo-Croatian
  • Spanish

To learn more or request an appointment, contact CNSO today.

Centers for Neurosurgery Spine & Orthopedics