Epidural steroid injections are a common treatment option for many forms of low back pain and leg pain. They are an important component of the non-surgical management of sciatica and low back pain. The goal of the injection is to relieve pain. At times the injection alone is sufficient to provide relief. In other cases the epidural steroid injection enables a related physical therapy program to be initiated.
The effects of an injection can provide pain relief for one week up to one year. For patients suffering an acute episode of back and/or leg pain, it can be the most direct method of pain relief.
Epidural steroid injections deliver medication directly to (or very near) the source of pain generation. In contrast, oral steroids and painkillers have a dispersed, less-focused impact and may have unacceptable side effects. Additionally, since the vast majority of pain stems from chemical inflammation, an epidural steroid injection can help control local inflammation while also “flushing out” inflammatory proteins and chemicals from the local area that may contribute to and exacerbate pain.
Coastal Back and Pain Institute perform epidural steroid injections in our adjacent surgery centers. It is a relatively painless procedure and takes between 15 and 30 minutes.
Patients lie flat on an x-ray table or with a small pillow under their stomachs to slightly curve the back. The skin is cleaned and then numbed with a local anesthetic similar to what a dentist uses. Using fluoroscopy, or live x-ray for guidance, a needle is inserted into the skin and directed toward the epidural space. Once the needle is properly positioned, the epidural steroid solution is then injected. The injection is not generally painful. Following the injection, the patient is monitored for 15 to 20 minutes before being discharged home.