We note these studies not to discourage you from undergoing epidural steroid injections, but rather to help foster well-rounded discussions with your doctor. These injections have been shown to provide excellent pain relief in many patients (particularly those who have had symptoms for less than 3 months, not had a previous spine surgery, are younger than 60 years, and don’t smoke). However, epidural steroid injections are not magic bullets. Before starting injection therapy, talk to your doctor about the specific risks and benefits for you.
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.
An epidural steroid injection places this powerful anti-inflammatory medication directly around the spinal nerves. Traditionally epidural injections were administered without any special equipment, by inserting the needle by feel in the area around the spinal nerves. More recently epidural injections have been administered with the aid of imaging tools to allow your physician to see the needle going to the proper location. Either real-time x-ray called fluoroscopy, or CT scan can be used to 'watch' the needle deliver the medication to the proper location.