Lower back pain is becoming increasingly common among individuals. The pain can be due to any reason and might be extremely painful and render the patient incapable of going through day to day life activities. Healthcare providers have started using epidural steroid injections as a non-invasive modality to manage chronic lower back pain. These have shown the most effective results in managing lower back pain due to spinal stenosis and herniated disk.
What is an epidural?
An epidural is a procedure during which a medication — either an anesthetic or a steroid — is injected into the space between the bone and the protective sac of the spinal nerves called the epidural space. The goal of an epidural procedure is pain reduction or complete anesthesia for a certain region of your body.
What is an epidural steroid injection (ESI)?
A steroid injection can include both, a corticosteroid like dexamethasone, triamcinolone, methyl-prednisolone and an anesthetic numbing agent like lidocaine. These drugs are injected into the epidural space of the spine.
Corticosteroid injections are used to reduce inflammation and chronic pains caused by irritation and inflammation of spinal nerve roots in the lower back region and are very effective when delivered directly into the affected area. It only works on the spinal nerves and flushes away the proteins that cause swelling. The pain relief can last from days to years, which allows your spinal condition to improve with the help of exercise and physical therapy.
How does it work?
An epidural steroid injection (ESI) is mainly used for chronic pain management. A steroid or corticosteroid is injected into the epidural space. The medication, instead of blocking pain or feeling in a region of your body, coats the irritated nerves that are the cause of your pain and also aids to reduce swelling and pressure on the nerves. The steroid allows the nerves time to heal. Epidural steroid injections can provide temporary, long-term or permanent pain relief.
Who can benefit from epidural steroid injections?
People who suffer from pain in any body part due to the following conditions may benefit from epidural steroid injections:
- Spinal stenosis
- Degenerative disk disease
- Herniated disk (slipped, ruptured or bulging disk)
What are the contraindications for getting epidural steroid injection?
ESI is considered an appropriate non-surgical intervention for a lot of patients. Patients suffering from certain medical conditions are, however, not ideal candidates for an epidural. Hence, before getting an epidural it is very important to discuss your medical history with your doctor so that future complications can be avoided. If you suffer from any of the following conditions, you may not be able to get a steroid epidural:
- Drug allergies
- Blood clotting issues
- An infection
- Poorly managed diabetes