Nerves function as a transport system for electrical impulses as they pass from one area of the body to the brain, where they are translated into sensations such as pain or pleasure. Because nerves pass through the spinal cord, conditions such as bone spurs, disc herniation, spondylolysis, thickening of ligaments, and joint cysts that affect the back can also affect nerves and the areas they represent. These conditions can cause areas in the back through which nerves pass to narrow, causing the nerves within to become inflamed. The inflamed nerves send the brain pain signals, which are interpreted as pain in the area to which the nerve corresponds, such as the leg or arm.
Epidural steroid injections can be used to reduce the leg or arm pain that may accompany neck-related or lower back-related conditions. Steroids can be injected into the epidural space (an area within the spine that is close to the inflamed nerve) to decrease the inflammation of the nerve, thereby reducing pain. Local anesthetic may be added to the steroid to have an immediate effect on the pain. It can take anywhere from a few days to a week to feel the full benefits of the steroid, but patients will continue to feel reduced pain and improved function for several months following the injection.
Usually, we use epidural steroid injections to temporarily relieve the patient of their pain while the underlying cause of the pain is treated through physical therapy or other methods.
Side effects and outcomes are unique to each patient and will be discussed before any treatment options are prescribed.