How can an epidural injection help my pain?
Another effective method for relieving chronic pain is an epidural injection, which can be given to relieve pain in nerves located outside the spinal cord’s protective membrane known as the dura. Dura nerves travel the entire length of the spinal cord to your neck, arms and legs, and can become damaged or irritated due to injury, surgery, compression of spinal discs or bone spurs.
How is one given?
Most experts agree that best treatment for spinal nerve pain is the injection of a mixture containing both anesthetics and an anti-inflammatory to numb the area and reduce swelling and inflammation. It is believed that by delivering anesthetics to the inflamed nerves, the pain signals from the overactive nerves to the brain are interrupted, preventing the brain from processing them. At the same time, the anti-inflammatory helps damaged tissue and muscle to heal. Many patients experience relief from chronic pain that lasts for days, weeks or even months.
Epidural injections are usually performed in a sterile operating room by a trained anesthesiologist. Prior to the procedure the patient will be placed on the table and given a mild sedative. The physician will use imaging guidance (x-rays, MRI, CT scans or fluoroscopy) to permit accurate diagnosis of the chronic pain so the patient receives the maximum benefit from the injection. The skin will be cleaned and injected with a local anesthetic, which takes approximately 5 to 10 minutes to take effect.
After the local anesthetic has taken effect, the physician will direct a small needle into the appropriate area where the pain is located, and inject a mixture of numbing medication and an anti-inflammatory steroid. Sometimes the physician will use a small amount of contrast (dye) to ensure the needle is properly situated.
How long will it take?
The procedure itself takes only a few minutes, and the patient is free to leave after being monitored for a half hour to an hour. It is normal for the patient to feel slightly drowsy and even some numbness in the legs afterwards, so they should avoid operating any heavy machinery or driving for at least twelve hours. The patient can eat and take any medications they normally would afterwards. Ice or wet heat can be used to relieve discomfort caused at the injection site.