Living with chronic back pain can make life on the verge becoming a living hell for many people, eliminating the possibility of ever getting a full night’s sleep or even being able to lie down for anything over an hour. This leaves the majority of these people constantly searching for medical and non-medical treatment options in an effort to at least dull the resounding pain.
For individuals whose pain is caused by a herniated disc, arthritis or other spinal cord conditions, one of the common treatment options is a series of epidural steroid injections. Of course, if you’re suffering from debilitating pain you probably don’t care how popular a treatment option is, but rather whether it will actually be able to provide you with effective relief.
What are Epidural Steroid Injections Used For?
The first thing you need to know about epidural injections is that they will only work to treat a very specific kind of pain, pain that’s caused by compression of the root nerve from your spinal cord. This nerve root compression can be due to a herniated disc, injury or other back conditions and also from, scar tissue, bone spurs or spinal stenosis. Still, no matter what the cause, the result is always the same—agonizing, sharp, radiating pain.
One of the most common conditions associated with nerve root compression is sciatica, which is caused by an irritation of the sciatic nerve as it leaves the spinal column in the lower lumbar section of the back. People who suffer from sciatica usually experience pain, tingling and numbness beginning in the lumbar area and often radiating down into the buttocks, thighs and sometimes all the way to the feet. In extreme cases, the pain and numbness can become severe enough to basically leave the person confined to a wheelchair or forced to use a walker.
Similar pain can occur from conditions in cervical and rarely in the thoracic areas. The cervical source of pain may radiate to the shoulders, arms and hands. The thoracic pain can be a band like pain. The reasons for this remain the same as in lumbar and sacral areas discussed above.
Investigating the Success Rates of Epidural Steroid Injections
Epidural steroid injections are given using a needle inserted directly into the spinal column at or around the affected site. This is done under x-ray guidance to increase their safety. The steroid then acts as an anti-inflammatory agents to reduce swelling and thus lessen the pressure on the nerve root. When used to treat the symptoms of sciatica and other similar spinal problems, epidurals can and do give significant relief in many patients.
The injections are effective at providing relief from lower back pain in over 50 percent of cases. The success rate is generally quite a bit higher when treating pain that occurs lower down on the body, including the legs and buttocks for lumbosacral area and in arms and hands with cervical injections.
It must be noted that the relief may be temporary as the anti-inflammatory benefit provided by the steroid can only last so long. In some cases this could be as short as a weeks, while others may find that the injections provide some level of pain relief for up to 6 months , especially if a series of three injections are performed.
Some physicians are unwilling to try epidurals until they’ve exhausted most of their other options. That being said, if you’re desperate to find relief, you should search for a qualified and specially trained and certified pain management specialist and discuss this, and other available options, with him.
If you do and it works to lessen your pain, you’ll definitely find it was well worth it especially if it only provides long lasting relief.