Back pain can bring your whole life to a halt and hinder your ability to perform simple tasks, such as tying your shoes and getting in and out of your car. If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. More than 31 million Americans struggle with pain and immobility issues related to their lower back.
At CHOICE Pain & Rehabilitation Center, with multiple locations in Maryland, we specialize in getting to the root causes of pain and eliminating them quickly. If you’ve tried at-home treatments and physical therapy and are still in pain, an epidural injection may be able to give you the relief you need.
Understanding lower back pain
The lumbar (lower) region of your back is home to countless nerves, muscles, tendons, and ligaments running in and out of your spinal column. It’s a perfect design when all the parts function properly.
Some of the most common problems occur when an injury or illness damages the soft tissues or bony structures in your lower back, which can change your anatomy in some critical and painful ways. Inflammation, bulging discs, bone spurs, and thickened ligaments can cause an already-crowded environment to become utterly inhospitable to the nerves passing through your spinal column.
If nerve roots in your lower back get compressed or damaged, this can lead to excruciating back pain that may travel to your legs and arms as well. Furthermore, people with this nerve damage often experience numbness or tingling along the length of the affected nerves all the way to their extremities. This condition is called radiculopathy.
Why conservative treatments don’t always stop lower back pain
Depending on what’s causing your back pain, conservative treatments, such as rest, ice, heat, and over-the-counter anti-inflammatories may be all you need. Muscle spasms, strained muscles, and sprained ligaments all typically respond well to these treatments.
However, when nerves get involved, or structural abnormalities are the issue, you need to approach your condition differently. The short-term goal is pain relief, but the long-term goal is to heal the condition causing the pain or at least stop its progression, and that’s where lumbar epidural injections come in.
How lumbar epidural injections relieve back pain
If you have irritated, compressed, or damaged nerves in your lower back, lumbar epidural injections can offer immediate relief.
To give you an injection, we use fluoroscopy to guide the needle to the precise location of your nerve pain. Once the target is identified, we inject the medication, which is a combination of a quick-acting anesthetic and a long-acting corticosteroid. The medicine bathes the targeted nerves in your spinal region and stops their ability to feel pain.
Although the effects are temporary and different for everyone — they can last one week to one year — the benefits are valuable regardless of their duration. Among the benefits are the following:
- Relieves pain immediately
- Reduces or eliminates inflammation
- Reduces the need for oral medications
- Enables you to engage in physical therapy and other rehabilitative measures
- Postpones the need for surgery
If your lumbar epidural injection only partially reduces your pain, a second injection a couple weeks later may complete the job. However, we don’t recommend more than three epidural injections within a year. Most patients get significant relief after just one injection. However, some people need two injections, and a small percentage of people need all three. It’s safe to say, however, that if your pain isn’t significantly reduced after two injections, we may need to discuss other treatment options with you.
If you have lower back pain that hasn’t responded to other treatments, and you’re not ready for surgery, an epidural injection may be able to give you the relief you need. To learn more, book an appointment online or over the phone with CHOICE Pain & Rehabilitation Center today.