An epidural is an injection into your spine. It has several uses:
The epidural space encircles the dura or outer covering of your spinal cord and extends from your skull to your tailbone. It contains blood vessels, fatty tissue, and nerves, spread out across the space after exiting your spinal cord.
Epidural injections might contain steroid medication, anesthetic, or both.
Steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, like cortisone, help to reduce the production of the molecules that cause chronic inflammation. These can relieve pain because long-term inflammation can lead to problems like arthritis, nerve irritation, and scar tissue formation.
Epidural steroid injections can break the cycle of inflammation and may offer long-lasting pain relief. Your epidural injection might also contain anesthetic medication to numb the painful area.
Anesthetic is often used in nerve blocks to pinpoint the source of back pain, combined with steroids in epidural injections. The Goodlife Physical Medicine team also uses Sarapin, a natural, plant-based anti-inflammatory, in all of their epidural injections.
When you're ready for your procedure, your provider inserts a small cannula (tube) into a vein. If you choose to have a sedative, this goes into your bloodstream through the cannula. Next, you lie face down on a treatment table, and your provider injects a local anesthetic into your skin.
The Goodlife Physical Medicine team uses fluoroscopy (moving X-ray images) to guide a small needle to the medial branch nerve in your spine. They might use a special dye that shows up on the X-ray to ensure the epidural needle goes into the correct place before injecting the medication into the nerve.
The procedure typically takes 10-20 minutes, after which you spend 20-40 minutes under observation in the recovery suite.
You're likely to experience numbness or symptom relief for several hours after your epidural injection. Your chronic pain might then return as the local anesthetic wears off. Some patients experience an increase in pain and stiffness in the first few days following an epidural injection.
Longer-term reduction of pain can vary a great deal between patients. Some find a single epidural injection gives them months of relief, while others need a series of injections.
A few patients see little benefit from their epidural injection. If this happens with you, the Goodlife Physical Medicine team has a range of other treatments that could help.
For more information about epidural injections and how you could benefit from them, call Goodlife Physical Medicine or book an appointment online today.