If you have been seeking for ways to find relief from chronic pain, you may have learned about how an epidural injection works to provide targeted and concentrated pain relief. Injections for chronic pain are just one of the many approaches that we offer at our pain management center. To find out if an epidural injection is right for you, and to learn more about the benefits and risks, contact our office today. One of our experienced doctors will work closely with you to determine a method of pain relief that will actually improve your overall quality of life and not just mask your symptoms temporarily. We work to find long term, minimally invasive solutions that are effective and truly the best choice for our patients.
Epidural injections provide needed and welcome pain relief for people suffering from everything from arthritis to injuries. However, epidurals need to be approached carefully, with full knowledge of what is happening and what benefits or side effects the injections can bring with them. Done correctly, epidural injections can assist pain patients with management and recovery with a minimum of discomfort.
Patients can receive one of two main types of epidural injections for pain. One is an anesthesia shot that numbs half the body, and this is used in cases like surgery and labor. The other is an anti-inflammatory steroid injection meant to ease pain but not numb the body. This type of epidural is used to manage chronic pain from injury or disease. The injection is placed in the epidural space that surrounds the spine, separated from the spinal nerves by a membrane. The medication affects the spinal nerves.
Epidural steroid injections are not a first-line course of treatment. They are typically utilized if other means of pain management have proven ineffective.
For general pain management and relief, the epidural allows the patient to resume daily activities that may have been curtailed by the pain. This pain reduction also allows patients to participate in physical therapy that might otherwise have been too painful.
Pain can be a frustrating cycle: Something is causing pain, and physical therapy can reduce or eliminate the condition causing the pain. However, the pain itself makes doing the physical therapy exercises nearly impossible. With an anti-inflammatory epidural injection, however, the patient can complete the physical therapy to reduce the pain-causing condition.
As with any procedure and any medication, epidurals have potential side effects. Infection at the injection site is one such risk, as is an allergic reaction to the medication used. If the shot is not given correctly, the spinal nerves can receive damage from the needle. This is a rare complication, but it is one that patients need to be aware of.
A common side effect is tender skin at the injection site, which is not surprising given that a shot — or multiple shots — have been administered in the area. Sometimes epidural steroid injections need to be given in a series over a few months, and repeated injections can increase the risk of tenderness. Nausea and dizziness are also not uncommon.
Shots given too frequently or with high doses of steroids can have additional side effects due to the medications. Frequent or high-dose anti-inflammatory steroid use can lead to an increased risk of osteoporosis and eye problems, as well as withdrawal symptoms once the medication is no longer affecting the nerves in your body. Your doctor will talk with you about the side effects that you need to be most aware of for your particular situation.
Steroid epidural injections, in the short term, have been found to be highly effective. They may not last for the long term — some patients need to have several shots while others need only one — but the pain relief generally starts rather quickly and lasts long enough to make a difference in the patient’s quality of life.
If the patient needs long-term epidural steroid injections, that can be more difficult to assess. The reasons for using epidurals for pain relief can vary so widely, and the amount of pain be so subjective, that it’s difficult to get concrete study results that show how good epidurals are in the long term. If a patient just needs an epidural for short-term pain relief, though, the procedure can be very beneficial.
For planned epidurals, patients need to avoid alcohol and possibly avoid all food for several hours before the procedure. The doctors performing the epidural need to know about any medications or over-the-counter preparations (including herbs and herbal tea) that the patient is using. Blood-thinning medications can pose a problem because blood clotting is sometimes essential during the procedure, such as during the aforementioned wet tap. Patients may not be able to drive after the injection, but your doctor will provide you with specific instructions so that you can plan.
Epidural injections used for pain relief provide patients with the ability to undergo procedures or deal with chronic pain in a much easier manner than with other pain relief strategies. Due to the location of the injection, the patients do need to be made aware of all of the side effects.
To learn more about an epidural injection and how it could help provide you with relief from chronic pain, contact our office today. We can answer any questions you might have about the use of epidural injections and what you can expect. Your first visit to our office will involve a consultation where one of our experienced doctors evaluates your situation and makes a diagnosis that will assist with determining the best possible treatment for you.
If epidural treatment are not found to be the best way to deal with your pain, we have many other conservative, minimally invasive, and state of the art treatment options that are designed to work together to help you return to a life with minimal pain in which you are able to enjoy your daily activities. We look forward to helping you!