The art of pain management is to address chronic pain utilizing proven modalities. Every patient struggling with a painful condition is unique and has specific needs based on their situation. We are proud to have established centers in Upper Darby and Philadelphia in which patients may explore a variety of pain-relieving treatments.
What Is an Epidural?
An epidural is a form of injection therapy that may be recommended for people suffering from chronic pain or other symptoms resulting from a spinal condition. Injuries or degeneration within the spine can cause inflammation and irritation to nerve roots that exit the spinal column. Often, conditions affect either the low back or the cervical spine (neck). Around the spine is an area known as the epidural space. It is in this space where injections of corticosteroid medication are administered. The corticosteroid is a powerful anti-inflammatory that can significantly reduce pain.
What Conditions Are Treated with Epidurals?
Several conditions may be treated with an epidural. Epidural injections may be used to address:
- A herniated disc. Lumbar disc herniation involves the bulging of the nucleus of an affected disc. This bulging causes the inner part of the disc to press through the annulus, or outer ring of the disc. The disc puts pressure on the nerves and spinal cord, leading to pain, sciatica, and other symptoms.
- Degenerative disc disease. Discs can wear down significantly over time, reducing the space between two vertebrae and causing nerve impingement (pinched nerve)
- Spinal stenosis. The spinal column is hollow in the center, providing a canal for the spinal cord to sit safely. The spinal canal may narrow and begin to compress the nerves and the spinal cord.
- Compression fractures in vertebra may occur due to osteoarthritis or injury.
- An annular tear. Damage to the outer ring of a disc may lead to a tear, causing pain.
- Cysts may develop in a nerve root or in the facet joint of vertebrae, narrowing the space through which nerve roots exit the spine.
Am I A Candidate for an Epidural?
Many people are good candidates for epidural injections. Doctors and pain management specialists perform a thorough medical history review and examination to confirm that injections of corticosteroid injections may be suitable. Not everyone can receive this treatment. It is important to notify your doctor if you have uncontrolled diabetes, blood clotting problems, allergies to any drugs, or an infection. It is also important to discuss all medications you are taking with your doctor.
Are Epidural Injections Painful?
Patients receiving epidural injections may receive a local anesthetic before treatment begins. The anesthetic numbs the area receiving the injection so discomfort is expected to be minimal. If the epidural is being administered into an area that is already inflamed and irritated, the injection may be slightly more uncomfortable. However, we make every effort to improve this experience for our patients.
How Long Does the Epidural Procedure Take?
Epidural injections are administered using an x-ray with a special dye. This allows the provider to track the insertion of the needle and accurately guide it to the right location along the spine. Injections are administered at the location closest to the nerve that is causing pain. The entire procedure can take as little as 15 minutes.
Should I Use Heat or Ice After an Epidural?
It is not uncommon for some patients to experience discomfort after receiving an epidural injection. If this happens, it is appropriate to use pain-relieving symptoms that have previously improved comfort, such as rest. over-the-counter or prescribed medications, and ice.
Heat should be avoided for 2 weeks after an epidural. This includes heating pads, saunas, hot tubs, and hot baths and showers.
Are Epidural Injections Safe?
Epidural steroid injections have been a common form of pain management for decades. The treatment has been performed since 1952 and continues to be an integral part of pain management related to spinal conditions. In many cases, epidurals are a single aspect of a more comprehensive rehabilitation program. Patients may experience an increase in pain before relief progresses. Some patients develop side effects such as headache or temporary weakness or numbness in the treatment area. Nerve damage is possible. It is important to receive epidural injections from an experienced provider.
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