Do Epidural Steroid Injections Relieve Herniated Disc Pain?

Epidural Steroid InjectionsA herniated disc after a car accident can cause severe pain. A herniated disc is when the jelly-like material in the disc bulges out or ruptures, putting pressure on the spinal nerves. Naturally, most people want to avoid spinal surgery if at all possible, and there are less invasive treatment options to consider, including epidural steroid injections.

What is an Epidural Steroid Injection?

Epidural steroid injections can often help reduce the pain of a herniated disc. ESI involves injecting cortisone, a type of steroid, and a pain-relieving medication into the epidural space of the spine. This can reduce inflammation and swelling of the spinal nerves and diminish pain. The positive effect can last anywhere from several days to several years and makes it possible to do physical therapy to improve the condition of your back. It does not, however, affect the disc herniation, which remains.

How is an Epidural Steroid Injection Performed?

The injection is usually done with a fluoroscope (x-ray) to help the doctor position it correctly. It is done with local anesthesia and a sedative, usually with the patient lying face down.

There are three ways to deliver the medication:

  1. In a translaminar injection, the needle is inserted between the lamina of two vertebra from the middle of the back, which gets it into the large epidural space over the spinal cord where it is delivered to the nerve roots to the left and right of the inflamed area at the same time.
  2. In a transforaminal injection, the needle is inserted into the side of the vertebra in the neural foramen, which is above the nerve root and outside the epidural space. A contrast dye shows the flow of the medication. This technique treats one side at a time, and is used when the patient has had spinal surgery in the past, because it makes it possible to avoid surgical hardware and bone grafts.
  3. In a caudal injection, the medication is injected into the very end of the spine, below the last disk.

What Should I Expect After the Injection?

Many patients are able to get up and begin walking right away. Some patients experience  soreness around the injection site, which should respond to ice and/or acetaminophen. Many people begin to feel better within three days or so. If you have not achieved significant pain relief after two weeks, you may need an additional one or two injections, but three is the limit within a six-month period.

Most patients should begin physical therapy as soon as the pain subsides. The effect of the ESI is not permanent, but it does offer the opportunity to work on building the back muscles to prevent problems in the future.

Are There Risks with ESI?

ESI is considered safe, but there are some potential complications that could arise:

  • Headache
  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Allergic reaction
  • Nerve damage
  • Paralysis

Cortisone and Related Drugs can Cause Side Effects

  • Weight gain
  • Water retention
  • Hot flashes
  • Mood swings
  • Insomnia
  • Increased blood sugar in diabetics

If you have a herniated disc because you were involved in a car accident that was someone else’s fault, you may have a claim to receive money to compensate you for your losses from the accident. If you have questions about making a claim, attorney Jim Dodson will be happy to answer them. Jim has been helping people in the Bradenton area who have been injured in accidents caused by another person’s carelessness or negligence for more than 25 years. Give Jim a call at 941-404-4500.