Chronic back pain is a condition that interferes with your daily activities for at least three months. It can cause persistent discomfort that ranges from a subtle ache to a sharp jab, resulting in limited mobility.
To avoid the risks and recuperation associated with back surgery, the first course of treatment for back pain often begins with conservative, non-surgical care such as physical therapy, medication, or behavior modification. If these options prove inadequate, many patients find temporary relief with epidural injections.
Epidural injections deliver anti-inflammatory medication into a specific area of the spine. The medication helps decrease inflammation, which can reduce pain and help the injury heal.
You’ll get optimal results when your treatment is delivered by an experienced epidural injection professional. Board-certified anesthesiologist and pain-management specialist Anjum Bux, MD, specializes in the use of epidural injections and other back pain treatments at Bux Pain Management in Lexington, Cynthiana, and Danville, Kentucky. After a thorough physical examination and diagnostic tests, Dr. Bux determines the source of your back pain and advises whether epidural injections and/or other therapies can deliver relief.
How epidural injections work
An epidural injection is a minimally invasive procedure to relieve back pain produced by inflamed spinal nerves. The injection includes a combination of a corticosteroid, commonly referred to as a steroid, and a local anesthetic. The injection is delivered into the epidural space, the outermost section of the spinal column, where nerve roots exit the spine.
When a corticosteroid is delivered into the epidural space, it coats the inflamed nerve roots. The medication’s anti-inflammatory properties reduce swelling and nerve irritation, preventing discomfort and allowing the nerve time to heal. The anesthetic provides pain relief in about 15 minutes, which lasts for several hours after the injection.
Some corticosteroids begin to work within a few hours, while others may take up to a week before delivering noticeable relief. While the corticosteroid may have a slow onset, the benefits can last from one week to a year.
Epidural steroid injections can be safely administered up to six times a year. Allowing three to six months between injections is common for treating chronic back pain.
An epidural steroid injection can provide pain relief that allows you to resume everyday activities and move comfortably. This way, you can continue physical therapy to postpone or eliminate the need for back surgery.
An epidural steroid injection can also be used to locate the source of your pain. The injection is used to target a specific nerve. If you report pain relief from the injection, it’s proof that the injection identified the source of your pain.
Getting epidural injections
Dr. Bux administers epidural steroid injections on an outpatient basis in each Bux Pain Management office. Administering the injection takes about 30 minutes.
During the procedure, you receive a local anesthetic but will remain awake and aware. If necessary, you may receive a low dose of a sedative to help you relax.
To receive the injection, you are positioned on an X-ray table on your side. Dr. Bux directs a hollow needle through your skin into the epidural space, using X-ray fluoroscopy to watch the needle in real time. These high-definition images allow Dr. Bux to ensure the needle is directed to the targeted location.
When the needle is close to the ideal position, Dr. Bux injects contrast dye to confirm the flow of the medication before it’s released. When an appropriate location is determined, the medication is released, then the needle is removed.
While most patients can walk around immediately after the procedure, you must remain in the office for a short time to be monitored. Temporary soreness around the injection site can be relieved with acetaminophen.
About 70% to 90% of people who receive an epidural injection achieve significant relief. If you achieve some relief with an epidural injection, you may also achieve relief from subsequent injections. However, if your pain doesn’t improve with an epidural injection, it’s unlikely that additional injections will help.
Candidates for epidural injections
Dr. Bux advises treatment based on your medical history and the source of your pain. For most patients, an epidural steroid injection is recommended after medications and physical therapy have failed.
You may be a candidate for epidural injections if you have one of the following conditions:
- Spinal stenosis
- Spondylolisthesis (slipped vertebra)
- Bulging disc
- Herniated disc
- Degenerative disc
- Facet joint arthritis
Having an infection, bleeding problem, diabetes, or glaucoma may interfere with your ability to receive epidural injections. Since fluoroscopy X-rays may be harmful to unborn babies, pregnancy may also prevent you from receiving epidural injections.
Find out more about the ways epidural injections can relieve back pain and allow you to return to normal activities. Schedule online or call one of our convenient offices in Lexington, Cynthiana, or Danville to arrange a consultation.