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Will an epidural injection help disc heal?

Diagnosed with a 6mm bulge at L5-S1 3 months ago. Symptoms include back pain and sciatica on left leg.
I'm on my 3rd month of PT and I think the pain is starting to centralize. I have some sciatica sensations in my left leg but not as much as before. Also, the back pain isn't that bad since I don't even need NSAIDs anymore.

With that said, I have a follow up with my doctor this week to let him know my progress and whether I want to get an epidural injection to relieve some of the pain.

I think I would only opt to get an epidural if the injection actually helps the disc heal. If not, I am fine with the mild sensations I am currently feeling and hope to continue heal with just PT. So in order to help make my decision, does anyone know if an epidural will help disc heal or is it just to temporarily relieve inflammation so you won't feel the uncomfortable symptoms?


  • done to relieve pain and symptoms, and reduce inflammation, They aren't meant to heal anything......
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 10,040
    as Sandi wrote are not primarily designed to heal.
    They do provide pain relief by reducing the inflammation. For some, that may be enough to calm down their spinal condition. With time, that could also mean some natural healing of the disc.

    So, while ESI's are not designed to heal, they can set the stage that could lead to more healing
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • I have a lot of inflammation so the shots help make more room for things to move around. Know what I mean?

    You seem to be doing really well with physical therapy. That's great! I'd take your doctors advise on this. Get him to show you on his screen (or on a model) exactly where they will be injecting & have him explain how he thinks that could improve your situation. That's what I do. Then make-up your mind.

    Please remember that even if physical therapy makes you feel completely better it would be well worth continuing to do the exercises & stretches at home once you have completed your course. Keeping flexible with a strong core could stop you having further problems in the future. Now that you know you have a weakness there please avoid exercise that jars your spine in the future. I wish I'd never run & done 'those' kinds of exercises. Slow, controlled PT exercises should be a way of life for many. There would be a lot less spine patients!!
    Osteoarthritis & DDD.
  • A good question to ask is "What will occur is I do not do this?" I have just ruptured my disc in the same area, and I can not imagine how you have managed for 3 months- since I can't really walk more than 100 feet without extreme pain. I'm impressed.

    I'm looking at the steroid injection to allow the swelling to shrink and give my body some time to heal, since surgery is a poor option for me at this time.
  • Runner. All of my problems started with a L5 S1 herniation. There's a difference between bulge & herniation. It also matters a lot how big the herniation is & what it's putting pressure on. Mine was bad enough to completely deaden my leg at times. I was advised to try concervative things. I moved country. I moved house. I changed docs. I got stuck with a very anti surgery PM. I was a passive patient who didn't seek second opinions. I never researched my back. I come from a family of back pain sufferers who never had surgery....I've got a lot more excuses! I've got permanent nerve damage in my left leg!! Fortunately I can still walk. My spine is now such a mess that surgeons (I've seen a lot) all want to know why I never had surgery & advise against it now because the results will be bad.
    I'm not saying push for surgery. I'm just warning, keep on-top of things. If a herniation is bad enough & pressing hard enough you will need surgery. If surgeons (always get 2nd opinions before you allow someone to operate) say try concervative measures then do but don't get stuck in PM like I did. Get MRIs & see a surgeon if things change. I don't blame anyone, there are so many reasons I'm stuck in this boat. I might be worse if I'd had surgery. I'll never know.
    "how long should I wait?", "what will happen if I don't have surgery?" all great questions to ask a surgeon. I'm pretty sure my first surgeon didn't intend for me to take meds & hobble through life in agony for years before I had another consult! Ugh!
    Osteoarthritis & DDD.
  • I think the last comment was directed at me. My Foot is entirely numb all the time, now. I just want the swelling to go down and the numbness to go away so I can work for 3-4 months, and then probably have the disectomy. I am Super lucky. Symptoms started on Monday. MRI tuesday, Neuro doc wed, neurosurgeon thurs, pain mgmt fri. Some people it seems wait and wait for these things, but as soon as the MRI came out, all sorts of people started to take action. My biggest issue is this new job and insurance change. The Surgeon states that it would just be a week....
  • The problem is the involvement of the nerves........there is no specific time frame in which the damage becomes permanent, because we can't see the nerve damage until the surgeon gets in there and actually takes a look at it......
    Sometimes, relieving the compression can be enough to cause the nerve to spring back to life, and work at 100%, then others, find that the nerve is permanently damaged, even though it may not have appeared all that serious on imaging.......
    So, while I understand wanting to wait a bit, it can also backfire and cause us permanent injury relatively quickly.
    Injections may help reduce the inflammation but if the nerve is compressed, it might not be wise to wait for a few months.
  • tysonjunettysonjune Posts: 1
    edited 11/04/2014 - 2:16 AM
    I have had lower back pain with an MRI that tells me I have a bulging disc. Would laser surgery be the cure.

    Moderator comments
    We can't offer treatment options. You need to discuss your diagnosis and treatment options with your personal physician. What did the doctor recommend as far as treatment goes? What kind of doctor are you seeing for your back?
    June A. Tyson
  • I'm pretty terrified. I am starting to be able to function better, but the first three toes remain entirely numb....Well, will re-see the Second Neuro Surgeon this week and the first neuro surgeon on friday, so we will see. trying to think about life activities, not the running....but it's so strange I have like HOURS of free time now because I can't train.
  • Be careful. Depression & anxiety creep into "free time" when you have pain & fear for them to feed on! Get hobbies. Get interests. Research all those things you always wanted to know about but didn't have the time to look into. Walk. Watch great thought provoking, or silly funny movies. Anything. Something. Distraction is the best way to deal with pain. Don't give it time to amplify its existence! ;-)
    Osteoarthritis & DDD.
  • I'm actually unable to walk for more than about 50 feet right now. I'm gathering from this forum so much information and one thing I've really learned is that while I thought my injury wasn't very serious, I can't DO a lot of what people are saying they are able to.
    I am very distressed because there wasn't really anything else I wanted to do for the rest of my life other than swim, run, maybe learn to cycle better. I spent my early life working with Doctors without Borders in Africa- just got back from a flash trip to Nigeria in August this year. Even the other things I loved to do- I send 5-10 Operation Christmas Child Boxes each year in November, I can't because I can not stand up long enough to sort the goodies and fill the boxes.
    I am just looking to the physicians appointments for answers and hoping and praying that at least the Epidural injection will render me able to do normal things, like stand up for 20 mins, walk my very large dog for 15-20 mins (luckily he is older.). This injury is still so acute, I know that we don't know how it will turn out, so a lot of this is just fear. I do have a strong faith that God is in this and will see me through it, but I have never been very patient. and I'm missing my favorite race of the year for sure, and my Comrades qualifier. I sure wish I had wanted to watch movies or play video games or paint. I'm a great reader, but that well...only for so long. I know this will get better....I can not live for months like this. Wow what a whiner I am.
  • Don't beat yourself up it's REALLY hard at the start! Not saying you won't make a complete recovery.
    There are some old timers on this forum. I'm a young old timer! Things change, even if the degeneration & pain gets worse people adjust. I remember thinking 'I can't do anything! It hurts too much' & it really did but my logic tells me I must be in worse pain now. I've adapted! As soon as I stand it hurts like hell & increases second by second...same with sitting 'normally' on my bum on a chair. Ugh! Agony. I've never been bed ridden mostly because I have little kids & no support system. You find new ways to do things. I've done food bank (just a few hours) sort of laying on 3 plastic chairs handing out sweet & chatting to people. I do crafts for the school. I do a lot of things, sort of lying on my left side is the best position for me.
    Really bad sciatica when it first hits is the worst for me. When every move makes you feel like you're zapped by a cattle prod! When that flares we're all pretty useless!! I know I am.
    Hang in there. One way or another it will get better. I find it really hard to concentrate on reading!
    Osteoarthritis & DDD.
  • Hello, newbie here. I had an epidural on my L5/S1 a week ago, which I have felt no relief from. How long should I give it before going back to surgeon? Surgeon suggested this would be a last resort before fusion.
  • edited 11/09/2014 - 9:22 PM
    The doctor who will perform the injection reviews your medical history and previous imaging studies to plan the best approach for the injections. Be prepared to ask any questions you may have at this appointment.

  • That comment totally hit my pain on the head. Totally jumping on this thread. I have read all the rules and the beginning posts and was surfing the like posts for info about things like what I am going through and found this. But when I saw the zapped by a cattle prod I had to comment. I say being tazed but it's the same.
    My history a little: Current condition is an approx 1 cm extrusion at l5/s1- per pain management doc- along with multiple bulges above.I'm not taking any meds for it but I tried neurontin which did nothing because my nerve is being so severly compressed neurontin can't make it not hurt. I've had my back pain for about 11 years now with just a bulge at L5/S1 that would cause slight sciatica where Mackenzie techniques would help. But started having the tazing feeling starting in June 2014. It would literally put me to my knees.The pain gets better and worse but is always there. My left thigh is at least 1 inch smaller than the right thigh, my outside of my left leg down to my foot is numb. I've had multiple MRI's, most recent one being Sept 2014 which showed the extrusion. I just saw pain management who immediately said I needed to see an ortho spine specialist, which I have an appt with on Dec 2nd-it's about a 3 month wait, but he said he would do the ESI to help with the pain. I've never had any surgeries and don't have any upcoming yet. But have been researching my treatment options. I've been to PT, Chiro- used to get adjusted regularly and it helped immensely. My current medical problems: HMM well, This! and I have fibromyalgia which I manage myself, Migraines- taking topamax, Depression- which has creeped up on me after not taking meds for 4 years and had to start taking wellbutrin again, husband is deployed and this chronic pain is kicking my butt.
    Other than that, I go to work everyday. I am slower and walk with a limp. I get 'tazed" when changing positions from sitting to standing, standing to starting walking....some days are worse than others. I am the primary care giver to my two kiddos- 11 year old and 2 year old, and my husband is deplolyed. I am worried about nerve damage though.
    Sorry to jump on the post!
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