An epidural delivers an anti-inflammatory medicine (a steroid) to the area outside of the sac of fluid that surrounds your spinal cord — also known as the epidural space. It allows you to get concentrated pain relief in contrast to oral pain medications that are less focused on your problem area. During the procedure, your skin will be cleaned and a numbing agent will be used at the injection site.
The medicine will then be slowly injected into the epidural space. This can often cause some pressure, but it is not usually painful. At Orange County Pain Clinics, we are also able to perform an epidural using the paramedian approach, which is useful for patients with arthritis or who are unable to flex their spine because of intense pain. This approach involves a 1.5 cm lateral placement that is pointed slightly downward and provides less resistance for the needle.
What conditions does it treat?
An epidural injection is used for radicular lower back pain, which is caused by pressure on a specific nerve and results in pain that spreads from your lower back to your hips or down your leg. It is also used to manage pain that develops as a result of sciatica, a lumbar herniated disc, degenerative disc disease, and spinal stenosis. In addition to relieving pain in the lower back, an epidural can also be used to manage pain in the mid-spinal region and in the neck. An epidural is extremely helpful if you are experiencing an acute (temporary) episode of back or neck pain. You are not a candidate if you have a local infection in the affected area or are taking a blood thinning medication. If you have any allergies or other conditions, make sure you bring them up to the doctor.
What can I expect afterward?
Following an epidural injection, you might experience mild tenderness for a few days at the site of the injection. The relief felt from the epidural will last anywhere from one week to a year, depending on the cause of your pain.