Epidural steroid injections are a therapeutic tool that is frequently utilized by pain management doctors when they are treating patients who complain about severe pain in their spine. Back pain can be mild, but it can also be debilitating and disabling to the point that the patient is not able to walk, bend forward, or perform even the basic household chores.
Chronic back pain is a subject of intense medical research, which aims to reveal the precise spinal dysfunction causes and how each individual spinal disease should be approached medically. Pain management doctors recommend and use epidural steroid injections only after a carefully analysis of the patient’s medical history. The injections are used only when physical therapy or mild pain-relief drugs have failed to address the spinal pain.
Epidural Steroid Injections Work by Reducing Inflammation and Alleviating Pain
What is the precise medical purpose of these injections? This is a question frequently asked by individuals who come to the pain management clinic and are afraid of any invasive procedure. Fortunately, these injections are not painful. Their aim is to deliver a precise dose of a steroid anti-inflammatory drug near the spinal nerves and the compressed vertebrae, which is how they reduce the swelling and the pain associated with anatomical abnormalities in the spine.
Medical studies revealed that one epidural injection can reduce pain for between one week up to one year, depending on the specific spinal condition experienced by the patient. Besides the pain relief benefits, epidural injections allow the patient to initiate physical therapy and rehabilitation exercises, which would otherwise be impossible to start due to the severe pain. The epidural steroid drug injected in the epidural space near the vertebrae is great for pain relief for chronic back pain caused by an inflammation of the spinal nerves, by compression generated by bulging discs or by irritation of the nerves that innervate the legs, also known as sciatic nerves.
Physical Rehabilitation Is Possible After Epidural Steroid Injections
The benefits of these injections have been investigated in numerous studies , which revealed their effectiveness for radiculitis, which is the inflammation of the nerves exiting from the vertebrae, and short-term relief for herniated discs. Even though the main purpose of steroid injections is to relieve inflamed spinal vertebrae and the associated pain, the obtained pain reduction is actually beneficial when it comes to starting a gradual physical rehabilitation of the patient. Once the individual is able to walk, move his or her legs, and perform simple exercises, a physical therapist is able to start designing a back muscle strengthening program, correct the misaligned vertebrae or adjust the patient’s posture.
Pain management doctors try to use epidural steroid injections only as long as they are critically necessary and then proceed with less invasive procedures aimed at restoring the functional integrity of the spine. The relief experienced after a session of epidural steroid drug administration can last up to a year, which is enough time to allow the spine to become stronger and to diminish the nerve swelling that may have occurred as a result of incorrect posture, compressive effects of displaced vertebral discs or scoliosis that alters the normal spinal configuration.