For most people suffering from back pain, surgery is scheduled only after all other options have been exhausted.
One non-surgical approach to pain relief is epidural steroid injections. They are only intended for temporary pain relief, but steroid injections coupled with therapeutic exercise may allow patients to postpone or even avoid surgery altogether.
See How Epidural Steroid Injections Work
Epidural steroid injections are most often used to treat low back and leg pain associated with sciatica, which is pain caused by a pinched nerve in the low back that radiates down the leg.
Sciatica can result from a number of conditions, including a herniated disc, degenerative disc disease, or spinal stenosis.
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Reader experiences with epidural steroid injections
Many Spine-health readers have had epidural steroid injections and have shared their results with us:
- There were many people who did experience relief, if only temporarily.
- In several instances, injections helped our readers reduce their pain while they waited for their scheduled surgery.
- There was also indication among our readers that a series of 3 to 4 shots provided the most relief, while anything more than that had little effect or even made pain worse.
- A select few were awarded complete relief and were able to return to normal activities.
- For as many of our readers who have had success, there were just as many who experienced little to no relief from epidural steroid injections.
Learn more about Epidural Steroid Injection Pain Relief Success Rates.
Fluoroscopy, or live X-ray, has been shown to be the most effective way to deliver the medication most accurately to the epidural space.
- Read more: Epidural Injection Procedure
The most common reader complaints were centered on the side effects associated with steroids. Many reported significant weight gain and bloating, swelling of the face, feet, and ankles, and headache and nausea.
Another concern for some readers, especially those with diabetes, was the rise in blood sugar associated with steroids.
Efficacy of epidural steroid injections
There is no conclusive evidence that epidural steroid injections work better for one condition than another; success rates are different for each individual. For those hoping to postpone surgery, injections may provide enough temporary relief.
Steroid injections may also provide enough pain relief to allow you to begin an exercise program. Many people have gained enough pain relief through an exercise program to avoid surgery.
The most important thing is to find a doctor that you trust, and who will adequately answer any questions you may have regarding your condition or the injection procedure.
- "Use of Epidural Steroid Injections for Radicular Lumbosacral Pain" from the American Academy of Neurology