Spinal injections are typically used to help patients suffering from severe cases of chronic pain. They have both diagnostic and therapeutic purposes: Spinal injections can help determine the exact source of pain, and they’re useful in treating persistent pain — particularly chronic back pain.
Spinal injections are usually just one component of a larger pain management plan, which typically includes specific exercises and stretches designed to fortify the effectiveness of the treatment.
There are three main types of spinal injections, and each is used to treat different types of pain:
Epidural injections work to treat sciatica pain, or pain that stems from the spine and reaches down into one or both legs. Sciatica-related leg pain is frequently caused by nerve inflammation or compression.
Epidural steroid injections contain a steroid and an anesthetic. When this liquid is injected into the epidural space surrounding your spinal cord and spinal nerves, it reduces swelling and inflammation of the nerves in the epidural space. When your spinal nerves are under less pressure from the surrounding tissues, you’ll find relief from back pain and its associated symptoms, including sciatica.
If persistent pain is believed to be caused by degenerative or arthritic conditions or a physical injury, it can usually be treated with a facet joint injection. Many types of neck and back pain are successfully treated with these injections, which are administered to the facet joints of your spine.
Facet joint injections are also a useful diagnostic tool that can be used to pinpoint the exact source of chronic pain.
This type of injection eases problems with your sacroiliac (SI) joint, which connects your pelvis to your spine. The SI joint is a common source of low back, buttock, and leg pain. Although usually only one of the SI joints is affected and causes pain on one side of your lower body, it is possible for both SI joints to cause pain simultaneously.
Spinal injections are conducted under an X-ray guide known as fluoroscopy. Fluoroscopy is an imaging technique used to study the movement of body structures.
During a spinal injection, a continuous X-ray is displayed on a monitor to help your doctor ensure that the injection is properly placed. Next, a dyed liquid is injected to ensure that the medication or steroid will flow in the right direction once it is injected; medication isn’t injected until the proper contrast flow is achieved.
Spinal injections are an in-office procedure that may require you to avoid eating or drinking for six hours prior to your appointment. Your physician should be informed of any medications you’re taking, and it’s also a good idea to have someone else drive you home following the procedure.