A dysfunction in your cervical spine can lead to pain that radiates through your shoulders and down your arms.

See Could That Shoulder Pain Really Stem From the Neck?

An epidural steroid injection delivers steroids directly to the painful area.
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Cervical Epidural Steroid Injection Video

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:

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Video highlights

In your cervical spine (neck), there is a sac called the dura that contains your nerve roots, cerebrospinal fluid, your spinal cord, and nerves.

See Cervical Spine Anatomy and Neck Pain

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.

See What Causes Hand Pain and Numbness?

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.

See Cervical Radiculopathy Treatment

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.

See Cervical Nerves

Conditions that can cause cervical radiculopathy include:

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.

See Epidural Injection Procedure

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.

Procedure outcomes

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.

See Neck Exercises for Neck 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).

See Epidural Steroid Injection Pain Relief Success Rates

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:

  • Bleeding
  • Nerve damage
  • Infection

See Epidural Results and Precautions

Learn more:

Cervical Pain from Joint Degeneration

Epidural Steroid Injections: Risks and Side Effects