Question: What can I expect from an epidural steroid injection?

I was diagnosed with herniated L4, L5, and S1 discs. Physical therapy has only worsened my pain and sleep has been difficult. My question is, as I understand the injections to be aimed at bringing relief, what do they do exactly? Are they to simply "turn-off" nerve endings in and around the spine, or do they have the ability to shrink-back the herniated disc material? Or if there is shrinking going on, is it more that the nerve endings are shrinking, as the herniated disc material takes it's time being reabsorbed by the body?

Article continues below

Doctor’s Response: An injection is designed to reduce pain due to inflammation

The sole reason to get an epidural injection is to relieve inflammation. The nerve root needs both pressure and inflammation to be painful. If the inflammation can be removed it can relieve the pain. The disc can reabsorb with time but not because of the inflammation. The main reason to get an epidural injection is temporize the pain and give the body time to heal.

Recommended Articles:

In Spine-health’s Doctor Advice section, physicians respond to frequently asked questions about back pain issues. These responses represent the opinion of one physician, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the broader medical community. The advice presented has not been peer reviewed by Spine-health’s medical advisory board.