For most people suffering from back pain, surgery is scheduled only after all other options have been exhausted.

One non-surgical approach to pain relief is epidural steroid injections. They are only intended for temporary pain relief, but steroid injections coupled with therapeutic exercise may allow patients to postpone or even avoid surgery altogether.

See Lumbar Epidural Steroid Injections for Low Back Pain and Sciatica

Epidural steroid injections may help ease the pain and allow you to start physical therapy. See: How Epidural Steroid Injections Work

Epidural steroid injections are most often used to treat low back and leg pain associated with sciatica, which is pain caused by a pinched nerve in the low back that radiates down the leg.

See What You Need to Know About Sciatica

See Types of Sciatic Nerve Pain

Sciatica can result from a number of conditions, including a herniated disc, degenerative disc disease, or spinal stenosis.

See What's a Herniated Disc, Pinched Nerve, Bulging Disc...?

See What Is Degenerative Disc Disease?

See What Is Spinal Stenosis?

Reader experiences with epidural steroid injections

Many Spine-health readers have had epidural steroid injections and have shared their results with us:

  • There were many people who did experience relief, if only temporarily.
  • In several instances, injections helped our readers reduce their pain while they waited for their scheduled surgery.
  • There was also indication among our readers that a series of 3 to 4 shots provided the most relief, while anything more than that had little effect or even made pain worse.
  • A select few were awarded complete relief and were able to return to normal activities.
  • For as many of our readers who have had success, there were just as many who experienced little to no relief from epidural steroid injections.

Learn more about Epidural Steroid Injection Pain Relief Success Rates.


Fluoroscopy, or live X-ray, has been shown to be the most effective way to deliver the medication most accurately to the epidural space.

See Epidural Injection Procedure

The most common reader complaints were centered on the side effects associated with steroids. Many reported significant weight gain and bloating, swelling of the face, feet, and ankles, and headache and nausea.

Another concern for some readers, especially those with diabetes, was the rise in blood sugar associated with steroids.

See Epidural Steroid Injections: Risks and Side Effects

Efficacy of epidural steroid injections

There is no conclusive evidence that epidural steroid injections work better for one condition than another; success rates are different for each individual. For those hoping to postpone surgery, injections may provide enough temporary relief.

Our cervical epidural injection video recently won a Telly Award. Watch: Cervical Epidural Steroid Injection Video

Steroid injections may also provide enough pain relief to allow you to begin an exercise program. Many people have gained enough pain relief through an exercise program to avoid surgery.

See Physical Therapy for Low Back Pain Relief

The most important thing is to find a doctor that you trust, and who will adequately answer any questions you may have regarding your condition or the injection procedure.

Learn more:

How Epidural Steroid Injections Work

Indications for Lumbar Epidural Injections

Additional Resource: