When oral medications have failed to work, some patients turn to having a lumbar epidural injection. Basically, this type of procedure involves injecting steroid medication into the lumbar spine in the epidural space. It is done to relieve pain from osteoarthritis or from arthritis secondary to trauma.
Lumbar epidural injections have been used to treat lumbar spine problems since 1952. They continue to help people with spinal problems to this day. They represent a good non-surgical way to treat low back pain and sciatica. Pain relief happens when the procedure works well. It is necessary to combine this form of treatment with physical therapy and rehabilitation.
The injection lasts from around one week to as much as one year. It can really help those who suffer from chronic and severe low back pain or leg pain. It allows the person to be successful with stretching exercises because they have less pain during the therapy. Besides the low back, these types of injections are good for the thoracic spine and the cervical spine.
Are these Injections Effective?
Many research studies show that the lumbar epidural injection is helpful in the short haul. Unfortunately not many studies indicate that there is long term effectiveness of the injections when it comes to pain control. There haven’t been many research studies on the topic of long term pain control.
Many studies on lumber epidural injections do not look at the data on fluoroscopy, in spite of the fact that almost all lumbar epidural injections make use of fluoroscopy to tell where the injection was placed. Other studies put different causes of low back pain together so you can’t tell what works and what doesn’t work on the various causes of low back pain. It’s simply difficult to make sense of the data.
It’s going to take more studies to understand if epidural injections in the lumbar spine are helpful. Most current studies indicate that about 50 percent of patients get relief of their pain with these types of injections.
Benefits of Lumbar Epidural injections
These types of procedures can help a patient avoid a potentially dangerous and painful surgery. Medication goes at the level or near the pain source so that there aren’t any systemic effects. Oral medications like pain medications and steroids are avoided and their side effects are avoided. Such epidural injections can wash out inflammatory chemicals and proteins so that the pain is reduced.
How do they work?
The space the injection is aiming for is called the epidural space, which is outside of the dural space that surrounds the spinal cord. This epidural space contains small blood vessels and fatty tissue. The solution injected into the epidural space includes local anesthetic, saline and cortisone in suspension.
It takes a skilled hand with a lot of practice to guarantee that the epidural space is reached and the correct spinal level is achieved. With practice, a provider can help a great many people achieve some degree of pain relief.