An epidural steroid injection is a minimally invasive procedure used by pain management physicians to relieve both spine and extremity pain caused by disc herniation, disc degeneration, spinal stenosis, and inflamed nerve roots.
“The medication is delivered to the inflamed spinal nerve through the epidural space,” explains Dr. Frohwein. The epidural space is the area between the protective covering of the spinal cord (the dura) and the bony elements that form the spinal canal.
The injection includes a corticosteroid (betamethasone or triamcinolone typically) and a numbing agent (bupivacaine or lidocaine).
“Corticosteroids reduce inflammation and have the potential to work very well when delivered directly to the site of pain,” says Dr.Frohwein. “Often times patients report near immediate pain relief following the procedure. If only mild relief is achieved, we may schedule one or two more injections to achieve maximum effectiveness.”
He continues, “It is important to remember, however, that an epidural steroid injection is only a method of delivering medication. It will not change lumbar spinal anatomy or increase abdominal muscle strength. Therefore, we must have close working relationships with both our spine surgery and physical therapy colleagues should additional treatment be needed.”
Dr. Frohwein that epidural steroid injections are often combined with physical therapy or home exercise programs to strengthen the back and core musculature, and to help prevent future pain.