A spinal corticosteroid injection is a needle injection in the back used to relieve pain or inflammation. Corticosteroids are injected into the epidural space around the spinal nerve roots of the cervical, thoracic, or lumbar portion of the spine, depending on the area that being treated.
The procedure is done to:
Spinal injections are typically done when pain is not relieved by:
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
Some factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
You may have the following done before the procedure:
Talk to your doctor about your medications. You may be asked to stop taking some medications up to 1 week before the procedure.
A local anesthetic and/or a sedative may be used. They may help to reduce pain and anxiety. You will be awake for the procedure.
You will lie on your side on an x-ray table. The skin on your back will be washed with a sterile solution. A syringe containing corticosteroid medication and a local anesthetic will be injected through the skin and into a space near the spine. X-ray imaging will be used to guide the placement of the needle. Contrast material may also be injected to confirm that the needle is in the right place. The medication will be injected and the needle will be removed from your back. A small bandage may then be placed over the injection site.
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The procedure will take less than 1 hour. The entire visit takes about 2-3 hours.
The injection of the local anesthetic may burn or sting for a few seconds. After that, you should not feel pain during the procedure.
When you return home after the procedure, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:
It will take a few days to a week for the medication to reduce the inflammation and pain. You should be able to resume your regular activities the day after the procedure. You should be able to start exercising within 1 week.
Complications may vary depending on the portion of the spine that receives the injection. Contact your doctor if your recovery is not progressing as expected or you develop complications such as:
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American Association of Neurological Surgeons
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Epidural steroid injections. Know Your Back website. Available at: http://www.knowyourback.org/Pages/Treatments/InjectionTreatments/ES_Injections.aspx. Published July 17, 2009. Accessed November 25, 2013.
Lumbar epidural steroid injections. Beverly Pain Management website. Available at: http://www.pain-clinic.org/lumbarepiduralsteroidinjections. Accessed November 25, 2013.
Manchikanti L, Staats PS, et al. Evidence-based practice guidelines for interventional techniques in the management of chronic spinal pain. Pain Phys. 2003;6:3-81.
Last reviewed November 2015 by Warren A. Bodine, DO, CAQSM Last Updated: 11/1/2016