If you suffer from low back, sciatica and leg pain, epidural injections offer an alternative to surgery for management and treatment of pain.
Epidural injections are primarily used to provide pain relief, but also help control local inflammation. By reducing the level of pain, this enables you to undertake a rehabilitation programme, which also plays an important role in the recovery process.
When Is This Procedure Conducted?
Epidural injections are a common treatment option for many forms of low back pain and leg pain. They have been used for low back problems since 1952 and are still an integral part of the non-surgical management of sciatica and low back pain.
Epidural injections deliver medication directly (or very near) the source of pain as well as help control local inflammation while also “flushing out” inflammatory proteins and chemicals from the local area that may contribute to and exacerbate pain.
How Does This Procedure Work?
You will lie flat on an X-ray table or with a small pillow under your stomach to slightly curve the back.
The skin in the low back area is cleaned and then numbed with a local anaesthetic. Using fluoroscopy (live X-ray) for guidance, a needle is inserted into the skin and directed toward the epidural space.
Once the needle is in the proper position, contrast is injected to confirm the needle location. The epidural steroid solution is then injected. Although the steroid solution is injected slowly, most patients sense some pressure due to the amount of the solution used (which in lumber injections can range from 3mL to 10mL, depending on the approach and steroid used). The pressure of the injection is not generally painful.
How Will I Feel After The Procedure?
If you have selected to be sedated for the procedure, you may feel a bit drowsy and you will require someone to drive you home.
Tenderness at the needle insertion site can occur for a few hours after the procedure and can be treated by applying an ice pack for 10 to 15 minutes once or twice an hour.
You will need to rest for the remainder of the day and will be able to resume normal activities the next day.
A temporary increase in pain may occur for several days after the injection due to the pressure of the fluid injected or due to local chemical irritation. The interventional radiologist can discuss with you pain management treatment options.
How successful are Epidural Injections?
Studies report that more than 50% of patients find measurable pain relief with epidural steroid injections.
Most practitioners will agree that, while the effects of the injection tend to be temporary, providing relief from pain for one week up to one year, an epidural can be very beneficial during an acute episode of back and/or leg pain. Importantly, an injection can provide sufficient pain relief to allow you to progress with a rehabilitative stretching and exercise program.
Summary of Benefits of Epidural Injections
- Epidural injections deliver medication directly (or very near) or very near the source of pain
- Temporary pain relief
- Helps control local inflammation whilst flushing out inflammation proteins and chemicals that exacerbate pain
- Provides with you with a better quality of life; ability to function in daily life without the restrictions previously caused by pain