Lumbar steroid injections target irritated nerves in your lower back for the purpose of providing relief from your lower back pain and/or sciatica symptoms.
Watch: Epidural Steroid Injections for Back Pain and Leg Pain Video
Our video walk-through can provide you with a comprehensive overview of this common procedure:
A nerve root that exits your spine may be irritated by a variety of spinal conditions, including a lumbar herniated disc (pictured above).
When one of your nerve roots is aggravated, you may experience symptoms of pain, tingling, and/or numbness along the pathway of the nerve (known as radiculopathy).
Often times, symptoms can be successfully treated with conservative measures like heat and/or cold therapy, low-impact aerobic exercise, and over-the-counter medications.
But if these conservative measures prove ineffective, your doctor may prescribe an epidural steroid injection to help reduce inflammation around your spinal nerves (and thereby decrease your symptoms).
To start the procedure, your doctor will have you lie on a cushion on your stomach. This position is necessary because it increases flexion in your lower back, which provides the needle with more room to go in.
Next, your doctor will numb your skin around the injection site with a local anesthetic to help alleviate pain from the needle.
She or he will then guide a needle into the epidural space. This process is aided by X-ray imaging and contrast dye to ensure proper placement.
Once the needle is in place, your doctor will deliver the injection into your epidural space. This injection may include a local anesthetic and/or saline along with the steroid medication.
Once the medication is injected, your doctor will remove the needle and place a small bandage over the injection site. You will be monitored for a short amount of time, and will be allowed to go home soon after the procedure.
Intended outcomes from a lumbar steroid injection
The goals of a lumbar steroid injection are to provide immediate pain relief and to flush the area of inflammatory proteins.
If successful, the effects of the injection are still temporary; lasting anywhere from one week to one year. But an injection may provide enough relief for you to begin an exercise program, which is a more long-term solution.
Potential risks and complications
While rare, the following risks and complications are associated with an epidural steroid injection:
- Nerve damage
- Stomach ulcers
- Difficulty sleeping