Any woman who has had at least one child knows exactly what an epidural—and chances are good that her husband also knows of the procedure. An epidural occurs during the beginning stages of a normal childbirth procedure. It is the process of shooting an anesthetic into a certain spot on a woman’s spine so that her lower back, pelvis, abdomen and genitals lose all sensation. As you can imagine, this is extremely helpful I creating a more positive and less painful birthing experience. But did you also know that epidurals can also be given to the non-pregnant male and female sufferers of chronic back pain in order to ease some of their discomfort? When it is done for this purpose, an epidural is called an epidural steroid injection.
How an Epidural Steroid Injection Works
Sometimes, in the epidural area (an area found low on your spinal cord) an inflammation occurs that makes the nerves swell and cause tingling, numbness and/ or pain. In some people, this pain is almost unbearable and interrupts their ability to live. They have trouble getting comfortable when lying down, when standing up and when sitting. It impacts their ability to drive, eat, work and sleep. This can wreak havoc on their health, emotional and physical well being, their relationships, employment status and their finances. Luckily for these individuals, an epidural steroid injection can help them remove some of the pain and regain some semblance of normalcy in their lives.
An epidural steroid injection works to stop the pain associated with certain back problems because steroids act as an anti inflammatory agent. That means that an epidural steroid injection can stop the swelling of the nerves, which is what is causing the back pain.
Details about the Epidural Steroid Injection
An epidural steroid injection is a very quick procedure. When you have chronic back pain that is not easily absolved with pain medications and you decide not to have surgery (or surgery can not be performed for any other reason) then you may opt for epidural steroid injections. These typically take just a few minutes and can be performed no more than six times per year.
During the procedure, the area to be injected is numbed with a topical anesthetic. Then, a long needle is injected into the site while a blood pressure machine, EKG and blood oxygen monitor are watching for significant changes in your readings. You may not be able to drive yourself home after an epidural steroid injection due to some heaviness in your lower extremities, but you should feel that the edge has been taken off your pain immediately. You may not be completely pain free, but you will certainly feel better.
After the injection, in the coming days, the heaviness should wear off your legs and you should be fine to drive or work. You may have some soreness in the area where the injection occurred and you may notice a slight flare up of your pain (compared to the way it was after the injection). Then, at the end of the first week you should really notice your pain lessening.
Some people do not get as much pain relief as others from their epidural steroid injection. For some, the relief only lasts a very short period of time. Since every person is an individual, your experience with epidural steroid injections could be quite different than that of anyone else you speak to. It is important to discuss all the results (or the lack of results) with your doctor so that you can both determine the best course of action to keep you pain free in the future.