Coping with pain is a part of life. Much of the time, pain results from an injury or accident and lasts only a short time. Some pain may come and go but have little effect on your daily activities. However, other kinds of pain are chronic and interfere with your quality of life.
One of the most prevalent areas of the body to experience pain is in the back. Back pain is so commonplace that it is estimated that up to 80% of people will suffer from it in some form during their lifetime. The good news is that even for serious conditions, treatment and relief are available. These interventions come in many modalities, including medication, exercises, and even surgery. Your doctor may even recommend epidural steroid injections for back pain. It is helpful to understand how this works and what the benefits are.
The Effects of Back Pain
Back pain can affect people of all ages, though it is most severe and prevalent in the older population. Back pain can occur anywhere along the spinal column and radiate outwardly to other parts of the body. The pain can feel sharp, throbbing, or burning, depending on the condition. It can cause numbness and tingling. Some people feel weakness. Back pain can originate from or attack discs, muscles, tendons, ligaments, or nerves. The symptoms can range from barely noticeable to excruciating and debilitating.
Back pain is so extensive throughout the population that there are economic consequences. It results in lost time from work, affecting individuals and companies. More than $86 billion is spent annually in the United States to treat back pain. People who become incapacitated and can no longer work may also feel the effects of stress and anxiety. It can also lead to a loss of enjoyment of favorite activities and time with loved ones.
Types of Back Pain
Back pain takes many forms, with numerous conditions accounting for it. Herniated or bulging discs, also known as pinched nerve, are common. This happens when the rubbery cushions between vertebrae begin to push out of their exterior coverings. Pinched nerves can also occur along the back. This often occurs when a muscle puts excessive pressure on a nerve. Other back conditions can include strains, sprains, fractures, arthritis, and osteoporosis.
Understanding Epidural Injections
A doctor may recommend epidural injections for back pain. This treatment is designed to numb the pain and reduce any inflammation causing discomfort or limiting mobility. It is a medication that the doctor will inject with a needle into the back, usually right outside a sac of fluid that has built up near the spinal cord. The steroid, combined with a numbing medication, will decrease swelling and minimize pressure on nerves in the back. Epidural injections are usually performed by interventional pain specialists, orthopedic spine surgeons, neurologists, and physiatrists (PM&R physical medicine and rehabilitation doctors).
More About the Procedure
To prepare for the injection, the patient dresses in a gown and lies on a table face-down. After cleaning the injection site, the doctor will use an X-ray for direction on where to place the needle. This will usually be in the lower part of the back. The process only takes about 30 minutes. There will be some epidural steroid injection recovery time under the doctor’s supervision. Ordinarily, the patient will remain in the office for 15 or 20 minutes until the doctor is satisfied that there will be no adverse effects. Most patients do not feel any pain during the procedure, though there can be some pressure. The patient should remain motionless during the injection. This will ensure that the doctor places the needle in the correct spot.
The Right Candidates
An epidural steroid injection makes sense for someone who is enduring extreme back pain. If you have pain in any area of your back, you may be a good candidate, especially if other interventions have not been effective. It is also worth exploring if your back pain has been consistent or constant for four to six weeks. The injections may be right for you if pain medication has not provided the relief you need.
Living with back pain can hinder your quality of life. It can have both physical and emotional health effects. You should not have to live under these conditions any longer. Speak to your doctor today about getting an epidural steroid injection.