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Epidural steroid injections are a common form of treatment for many types of lower back pain or sciatica. Pain and inflammation can occur in the spinal joints, nerves, muscles, ligaments, or disc space. Epidural steroid injections provide a combination of steroid medication and local anesthetic that proves beneficial in decreasing inflammation and reducing pain.

The main purpose of epidural steroid injections is pain relief. Pain is often accompanied by the body’s response of inflammation; the two symptoms typically go hand-in-hand. Steroids help reduce the immune system’s reaction to inflammation that may be linked to tissue or nerve damage, and therefore reduce the pain that accompanies inflammation. Epidural steroid injections can be used to ease pain in the lumbar (lower back), thoracic (middle back) or cervical (neck) regions, as well as treating sciatica. The injections are commonly used in conjunction with a physical therapy program to gain optimum benefits.

Patients with acute or chronic back or leg pain may be candidates for the non-surgical treatment of epidural steroid injections. Some common conditions that cause pain that might benefit from injections include:

  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Herniated disc
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Vertebral compression fractures
  • Cysts

It is best to schedule an appointment with a reputable physician like Dr. Fischer at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City to identify the source of your discomfort and the recommended treatment options. Dr. Fischer will determine if epidural steroid injections are right for you and answer all your questions as you decide if you’d like to pursue this treatment.

The ideal way to give an epidural steroid injection is to use live X-ray or fluoroscopy during the procedure, allowing the doctor to inject into the specific area causing pain. This avoids the risk of misplacing the medication and getting less beneficial results. Along with the steroid, a local anesthetic usually accompanies it for temporary pain relief, as well as saline that acts as a flushing agent. The patient is comfortable during the 15-30 minute procedure because local anesthetic is used to numb the area. Afterwards, the patient is monitored for a short time before being released.

Epidural steroid injections are considered a low risk procedure. Infection, bleeding, nerve inflammation, or elevated blood sugar may occur in rare cases.

Epidural steroid injections provide temporary pain relief, ranging from one week up to one year. The break from pain, whether it is acute or chronic, can allow the patient to perform stretches and exercises that help promote long-term recovery. Patients may opt to have up to three epidural steroid injections in one year. Since the injection delivers medication directly into the source of pain, it is often preferred over oral steroids that disperse throughout the body and are less concentrated on the area of pain. Also, the flushing characteristic of the injection helps eliminate inflammation that contributes to pain. Overall, many patients find that receiving epidural steroid injections for back or leg pain provides benefits that get them on a faster road to recovery. If you’d like to learn more, call Dr. Fischer today to schedule a consultation.