A dysfunction in your cervical spine can lead to pain that radiates through your shoulders and down your arms.
If this is the case for you, an injection of cortisone steroid can be a great short-term solution. Read on for a step-by-step overview of this common procedure:
In your cervical spine (neck), there is a sac called the dura that contains your nerve roots, cerebrospinal fluid, your spinal cord, and nerves.
An epidural space surrounds the dura, and the nerves in your cervical spine (pictured above) travel through this space before traveling down the shoulders and into your arms and hands.
When your cervical nerves are pinched or irritated, you may feel pain along any one of your nerve paths. This pain is referred to as cervical radiculopathy.
Possible causes of cervical radiculopathy
Epidural steroid injections are intended to treat pain provoked by conditions that cause inflammation and/or irritation to the nerves as they exit the spine on each side of the vertebrae.
Conditions that can cause cervical radiculopathy include:
- A cervical herniated disc (pictured above)
- A degenerated disc
- Cervical osteoarthritis
- Cervical spinal stenosis
The cervical epidural injection procedure
To prepare for the cervical steroid injection, you will be asked to lie face down. Your doctor will then numb the area around the injection site with anesthetic.
Next, your surgeon will use X-ray guidance and contrast dye, called fluoroscopy, to position the needle (pictured above) properly in the epidural space.
Once the needle is properly positioned, your doctor will inject a cortisone steroid solution. This medication is intended to alleviate your inflammation, which in turn can decrease your nerve pain.
Often, the purpose of a cervical epidural steroid injection it to provide enough short-term pain relief to allow you to begin, or continue, an exercise program. This exercise program can then bring you long-term relief from your pain.
It is important to note that the likelihood of the procedure relieving your pain is about 50/50 (and in some cases this pain relief may be permanent).
If a cervical epidural steroid injection brings partial relief from your pain, you can receive another injection at a future date for additional relief.
Risks and complications
An epidural injection is generally considered a low-risk procedure, but risks and complications may include:
- Nerve damage