For many people, back pain goes away on its own or with nonsurgical treatments. Epidural steroid injections shouldn't typically be used as a first-line therapy for back pain relief, but that doesn't mean they can't play a role in treating pain. But injections won't cure the underlying cause of back pain, and they provide only temporary relief. Unfortunately, in many cases, chronic back pain can't be cured, but must instead be managed, like other chronic conditionsand patients must have realistic expectations of what epidurals can do.
Although generally well tolerated, there are risks involved with a steroid injection. Infection and bleeding are risks with any injection. Though rare, a “flare” of increased pain after the injection can also occur. This flare generally subsides within 3 days. If this happens to you, call your doctor. Steroid injections can also raise your blood glucose level for a few days so if you have diabetes, you should discuss this potential risk with your doctor. There are other risks involved. For example, if you are on a blood thinner like warfarin, you may need to discontinue it prior to the injection.
Epidural steroid injections are most commonly used in situations of radicular pain, which is a radiating pain that is transmitted away from the spine by an irritated spinal nerve. Irritation of a spinal nerve in the low back ( lumbar radiculopathy ), such as from lumbar spinal stenosis , cervical spinal stenosis, herniated disc , and foraminal encroachment, causes back pain that goes down the leg. Epidural injection is also used as a minimally invasive procedure to treat nerve compression in the neck (cervical spine), referred to as cervical radiculopathy , which causes pain.