Got Chronic Back Pain? Why You Should Consider Epidural Steroid Injections

Back pain is one of the most common reasons for lost time in the workplace, and as many as 20% of people with back pain suffer it chronically, meaning the pain lasts for 12 weeks or longer. If you have chronic back pain, it can greatly impact your quality of life.

Managing chronic back pain can be difficult, because in some cases, the pain may endure after any physical reasons have subsided. And, in other cases, certain treatments may not provide relief.

Pain Center of NJ specializes in hard-to-treat chronic back pain. Ira Siegel, MD, often recommends epidural injections using corticosteroids to break the pain cycle for chronic back pain patients. In this blog, he explains what epidural injections are and how they may be able to help you.

How epidurals work

Many people think of epidurals in the context of pain management during childbirth. An anesthetic is injected into the epidural space, a fat-filled area that lies between the spine and the protective membrane covering your spinal nerves. An epidural reduces the intensity of pain signals reaching the brain.

When used for chronic back pain, a corticosteroid is added. The steroid effectively reduces inflammation and thus decreases or eliminates neck, back, arm, and leg pain caused by compressed or inflamed spinal nerves. Longer-term relief comes from the effects of the injection’s steroid. Pain relief typically lasts about three months, but many patients experience even longer-lasting results.

Steroid-boosted epidural injections are a way to soothe nerve irritation, but they don’t actually heal the original cause of your pain. Instead, they are effective in reducing inflammation and pain resulting from the cause. And by reducing the pain and inflammation, you may be more responsive to other treatments that could improve long-term function.

Conditions suited to steroid epidurals

Not all chronic back pain responds to steroidal epidural injections. The best results tend to come if you have any of these conditions: 

Degenerative disc disease

A degenerative disc results from aging or deterioration of an intervertebral disc, which can lead to a collapse of the disc.

Herniated discs

When the gel-like material contained within an intervertebral disc bulges or presses through a rupture, it can press against spinal nerves.

Sciatica

Sciatica is a condition in which the sciatic nerve gets compressed, causing tingling, numbing, or shooting pain that travels from the buttocks and down the legs. It typically originates from compression of the fifth lumbar or first sacral spinal nerves.

Spinal stenosis

Any narrowing of the spinal canal or nerve root canal can compress or irritate nerves, causing pain. Stenosis most often affects the lower back (lumbar spine) and neck area (cervical spine).

Spondylolisthesis

Spondylolisthesis is a condition in which a vertebra — one of the bones of your spinal column — slips out of place onto the vertebra below it, thus compressing the nerve roots.

Is an epidural the right treatment for you? 

Steroidal epidural injections are typically recommended when conventional treatments, such as movement modifications, over-the-counter or prescription pain medications, and physical therapy provide inadequate results. Dr. Siegel could recommend an epidural if:

If you have chronic back pain, the team at Pain Center of NJ — with six locations throughout New Jersey  — can help you get relief. To learn more, book an appointment online or over the phone with Pain Center of NJ today.

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