Inserted directly where pain is being felt, an epidural injection may allow you to comfortably get back to your normal routine and enjoy meaningful relief. Frequently administered with guidance from a special type of continuous X-ray to ensure accuracy with placement, epidural injections are often combined with a general anesthetic and cortisone, which has anti-inflammatory benefits that can further ease pain in the affected area. If you’ve never had an epidural injection for pain management purposes before, there are a handful of reasons why you may want to consider it.
You Have Nerve-Related Back Pain
If you have radiating (radicular) low back pain (LBP), you may be a good candidate for epidural injections. Radicular pain is a type of discomfort that travels along nerves to the arms, hands, hips, legs, or feet. Sciatica is common form of this type of pain. Nerve-related pain is often accompanied by inflammation. The injections oftentimes counteract it and soothe irritated nerves in the process. Transforaminal and interlaminar epidural injections are two of the most common types of injections used to relieve this type of pain. The main difference between is the specific placement of the injection in the epidural space. Results are often similar for patients who receive either type of injection.
You Wish to Minimize Dependence on Pain Medications
Narcotic pain relievers are strong medications typically used to manage pain. While such drugs can be effective, they are only meant to be used short-term. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) used to control inflammation can also have unintended side effects with long-term use. Patients sometimes build up a tolerance to some medications or develop a physical or psychological dependence, which can lead to several other issues. If you’re concerned about some of these risks, epidural injections may help you ease your reliance on some of these medications; although you shouldn’t stop taking any medications without approval from your doctor regardless of the results you may experience from injections.
You Want to Avoid or Delay Surgery
Surgery for most instances of back pain is rarely absolutely necessary. If you prefer to avoid having surgery or delay it as much as possible, epidural steroid injections (ESIs) may help you achieve that goal. Avoiding or delaying surgery may also reduce your risk of experiencing that unintended complications associated with some procedures. Even fairly reliable procedures such as fusion surgery have some degree of risk for patients. ESIs are often more beneficial for this purpose when coupled with therapeutic exercise since the treatment is meant to provide short-term relief. Even so, the reduction in pain often experienced with the injections may give you time to explore other non-surgical options.
You Want to Participate More in Physical Therapy
While not everyone experiences significant pain relief from epidural injections, you may enjoy enough of a break from your discomfort to allow you to take more active role in your physical therapy. Injections can often be safely repeated at regular intervals as the relief wears off to maintain your level comfort while you perform your various physical therapy exercises. As you enjoy benefits from those exercises, such as improved flexibility, muscle strength, and mobility, you may reach a point where you’re less dependent on injections to keep your pain under control; or you may experience enough relief from your physical therapy and recommended exercises to eliminate the need for further epidural injections altogether.
You Prefer Relief That’s More Immediate
Pain relief sometimes takes time, especially when you’re relying on exercise to strengthen back-supporting muscles or dietary adjustments to boost your body’s ability to fight inflammation. There are many positive steps you can take to manage your pain. Yet sometimes you want relief that’s more immediate, especially when pain reaches a level where it severely affects your quality of life. Epidural steroid injections usually begin working within 1-3 days of receiving the injection, although it may take up to a week to experience the full benefits of the shot, depending on the nature of your pain.
Your experience with epidural injections will depend on several factors, with one of the main ones being the primary source of your pain. For instance, the treatment is often more effective for radiating pain rather than discomfort relegated to the back only or acute pain. If you have success with epidural injections, however, you’ll likely be able to get regular exercise or explore other non-surgical treatment options. This can definitely be good for your overall health and quality of life.
To learn more about how an epidural injection could help you, contact us today.