Spinal injections are not new – the use of spinal injections to treat low back pain was first documented in 1901, and in 1952 epidural steroid injections were first used to treat low back pain with associated sciatica (pain in the sciatic nerve due to lumbar disc herniation). Today, epidural steroid injections have become an integral part of non-surgical management of low back pain.
An epidural injection is typically used to alleviate chronic low back and/or leg pain. While the effects of the injection tend to be temporary – providing relief from pain for one week up to one year – an epidural can be very beneficial for patients during an episode of severe back pain. Importantly, it can provide sufficient pain relief to allow the patient to progress with their rehabilitation program.
An epidural is effective in significantly reducing pain for approximately 50% of patients. It works by delivering steroids directly to the painful area to help decrease the inflammation that may be causing the pain. It is thought that there is also a flushing effect from the injection that helps remove or “flush out” inflammatory proteins from around the structures that may cause pain.