Should You Give Epidural Injections a Shot for Your Back Pain?

Back pain afflicts about 31 million Americans. What’s even more unsettling is that back pain is the top cause of disability around the world.

Ron Ben-Meir, DO, an expert in spine health and pain management at Downtown Pain Management, helps women and men throughout the New York City and northern New Jersey areas relieve their aching backs for good. One of the most effective treatments he offers is epidural injections. 

What’s behind your back pain?

A long list of conditions involving your muscles, bones, ligaments, discs, and nerves could be the source of your back pain. Among the most common sources include:

You may have developed one of these conditions because of an accident, injury, or disease. Or your back pain might simply be part of the aging process. 

Typically, an acute back injury heals within a month or two with proper care. When your injured back remains painful for six months or more, it’s considered chronic back pain. 

Back pain treatments

Many people recover from their back pain without surgery or invasive procedures. Simple measures that help back pain include:

Whether for pain relief or for identifying the specific nerves causing the pain, epidural injections can help, too.

Epidural injections 101

Doctors have used epidural injections since the 1950s. They’re still one of the most effective ways to treat back pain. Dr. Ben-Meir injects an anti-inflammatory corticosteroid directly into the epidural space, which surrounds the nerves running through your spinal cord.

The injection contains the steroid cortisol, which reduces inflammation. Inflammation of the nerves and surrounding tissue is the primary reason for your pain. 

When you take an oral medication to relieve inflammation, it goes through your digestive system, which takes time. The drug isn’t localized to your back, either. Instead, it’s dispersed throughout your body. 

In contrast, an epidural injection delivers precisely targeted results. It also contains a local anesthetic like lidocaine to offer immediate relief by flushing out the immunologic agents that create the inflammation.

What happens during an epidural?

Even if you think an epidural injection sounds intimidating, rest assured that the procedure isn’t painful. Once you're lying comfortably on your stomach, we sterilize the injection area and numb your skin with a local anesthetic. 

Dr. Ben-Meir uses fluoroscopy, a type of X-ray, to guide the needle to the precise spot where your pain originates. Although you won’t feel any pain, you may feel some pressure as the solution slowly enters your epidural space. 

After the injection, our staff monitors you for 15-20 minutes just to make sure you’re feeling well. After that, you’re free to go home. While it’s normal to feel some discomfort at the injection site for a few hours, you can relieve it with an ice pack. 

Epidural injections let you heal

One of the goals of epidural injections is to reduce or eliminate your pain long enough for you to participate in the treatments that resolve your underlying condition, such as physical therapy. Your epidural injection may give you pain relief for a week or up to a year, depending on your situation.

Quite often, individuals find that when the effects of the steroid wear off, the pain is gone. The initial injury has healed and they no longer need the help of the injection. Results vary, though, and some people may need more than one injection. However, you can’t have more than three within a year.

To find out if you’re a good candidate for the pain-relieving effects of an epidural injection, contact us to set up an appointment and give it a shot.

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