Certified by the American Board of Physical Medicine, American Board of Osteopathic Physical Medicine and Pain Management
Epidural Q & A
What is an Epidural Injection?
The epidural area surrounds the spinal cord and the nerves coming out of it. An epidural steroid injection is injected into this area to distribute long-lasting medication, like cortisone. Sometimes these injections are just called “epidural” for short. Epidural steroid shots are also used to relieve the pain and discomfort associated with sciatica and chronic lower back pain. They can also be used to treat chronic pain in the neck or cervical area of the spine. While they are usually administered to treat lower back or neck pain, epidurals can also be used to treat pain in the mid-back as well. The epidural reduces inflammation, pain, tingling, and numbness around the nerves in the epidural area. The pain relief achieved with an epidural injection can eliminate the need for oral medication or even surgery, and the injection only takes a few minutes to administer.
How is an Epidural Injection Different from a Nerve Block Injection?
A nerve block injection numbs the area surrounding the nerve causing pain, usually with an anesthetic like Lidocaine. Nerve block injections help doctors diagnose the issue causing the back pain. It is also sometimes administered as an anesthetic for surgery or other medical procedures.
What Happens when the Epidural is Injected?
Patients usually lie on their stomach on the x-ray table while the injection site is cleaned. Next, a local anesthetic is injected to numb the area. Following the anesthetic, a contrast dye is injected into the treatment area to help ensure precise needle placement. The goal is to inject the pain medication as close to the inflamed nerve as possible. A fluoroscope, or live-time x-ray, also helps the doctor confirm needle placement. The whole process takes about 20-30 minutes. Discomfort is minimal and most patients are able to stand and walk around immediately after the procedure. Patients are monitored for a short period after the procedure before going home. Most patients resume their regular everyday activities the following day.