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Will an epidural injection help disc heal?

Diagnosed with a 6mm bulge at L5-S1 3 months ago. Symptoms include back pain and sciatica on left leg.
I'm on my 3rd month of PT and I think the pain is starting to centralize. I have some sciatica sensations in my left leg but not as much as before. Also, the back pain isn't that bad since I don't even need NSAIDs anymore.

With that said, I have a follow up with my doctor this week to let him know my progress and whether I want to get an epidural injection to relieve some of the pain.

I think I would only opt to get an epidural if the injection actually helps the disc heal. If not, I am fine with the mild sensations I am currently feeling and hope to continue heal with just PT. So in order to help make my decision, does anyone know if an epidural will help disc heal or is it just to temporarily relieve inflammation so you won't feel the uncomfortable symptoms?


  • done to relieve pain and symptoms, and reduce inflammation, They aren't meant to heal anything......
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 13,525
    as Sandi wrote are not primarily designed to heal.
    They do provide pain relief by reducing the inflammation. For some, that may be enough to calm down their spinal condition. With time, that could also mean some natural healing of the disc.

    So, while ESI's are not designed to heal, they can set the stage that could lead to more healing
    Ron DiLauro Veritas-Health Forums Manager
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences 
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  • I have a lot of inflammation so the shots help make more room for things to move around. Know what I mean?

    You seem to be doing really well with physical therapy. That's great! I'd take your doctors advise on this. Get him to show you on his screen (or on a model) exactly where they will be injecting & have him explain how he thinks that could improve your situation. That's what I do. Then make-up your mind.

    Please remember that even if physical therapy makes you feel completely better it would be well worth continuing to do the exercises & stretches at home once you have completed your course. Keeping flexible with a strong core could stop you having further problems in the future. Now that you know you have a weakness there please avoid exercise that jars your spine in the future. I wish I'd never run & done 'those' kinds of exercises. Slow, controlled PT exercises should be a way of life for many. There would be a lot less spine patients!!
    Osteoarthritis & DDD.
  • A good question to ask is "What will occur is I do not do this?" I have just ruptured my disc in the same area, and I can not imagine how you have managed for 3 months- since I can't really walk more than 100 feet without extreme pain. I'm impressed.

    I'm looking at the steroid injection to allow the swelling to shrink and give my body some time to heal, since surgery is a poor option for me at this time.
  • Runner. All of my problems started with a L5 S1 herniation. There's a difference between bulge & herniation. It also matters a lot how big the herniation is & what it's putting pressure on. Mine was bad enough to completely deaden my leg at times. I was advised to try concervative things. I moved country. I moved house. I changed docs. I got stuck with a very anti surgery PM. I was a passive patient who didn't seek second opinions. I never researched my back. I come from a family of back pain sufferers who never had surgery....I've got a lot more excuses! I've got permanent nerve damage in my left leg!! Fortunately I can still walk. My spine is now such a mess that surgeons (I've seen a lot) all want to know why I never had surgery & advise against it now because the results will be bad.
    I'm not saying push for surgery. I'm just warning, keep on-top of things. If a herniation is bad enough & pressing hard enough you will need surgery. If surgeons (always get 2nd opinions before you allow someone to operate) say try concervative measures then do but don't get stuck in PM like I did. Get MRIs & see a surgeon if things change. I don't blame anyone, there are so many reasons I'm stuck in this boat. I might be worse if I'd had surgery. I'll never know.
    "how long should I wait?", "what will happen if I don't have surgery?" all great questions to ask a surgeon. I'm pretty sure my first surgeon didn't intend for me to take meds & hobble through life in agony for years before I had another consult! Ugh!
    Osteoarthritis & DDD.
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  • I think the last comment was directed at me. My Foot is entirely numb all the time, now. I just want the swelling to go down and the numbness to go away so I can work for 3-4 months, and then probably have the disectomy. I am Super lucky. Symptoms started on Monday. MRI tuesday, Neuro doc wed, neurosurgeon thurs, pain mgmt fri. Some people it seems wait and wait for these things, but as soon as the MRI came out, all sorts of people started to take action. My biggest issue is this new job and insurance change. The Surgeon states that it would just be a week....
  • The problem is the involvement of the nerves........there is no specific time frame in which the damage becomes permanent, because we can't see the nerve damage until the surgeon gets in there and actually takes a look at it......
    Sometimes, relieving the compression can be enough to cause the nerve to spring back to life, and work at 100%, then others, find that the nerve is permanently damaged, even though it may not have appeared all that serious on imaging.......
    So, while I understand wanting to wait a bit, it can also backfire and cause us permanent injury relatively quickly.
    Injections may help reduce the inflammation but if the nerve is compressed, it might not be wise to wait for a few months.
  • tysonjunettysonjune Posts: 1
    edited 11/04/2014 - 3:16 AM
    I have had lower back pain with an MRI that tells me I have a bulging disc. Would laser surgery be the cure.

    Moderator comments
    We can't offer treatment options. You need to discuss your diagnosis and treatment options with your personal physician. What did the doctor recommend as far as treatment goes? What kind of doctor are you seeing for your back?
    June A. Tyson
  • I'm pretty terrified. I am starting to be able to function better, but the first three toes remain entirely numb....Well, will re-see the Second Neuro Surgeon this week and the first neuro surgeon on friday, so we will see. trying to think about life activities, not the running....but it's so strange I have like HOURS of free time now because I can't train.
  • Be careful. Depression & anxiety creep into "free time" when you have pain & fear for them to feed on! Get hobbies. Get interests. Research all those things you always wanted to know about but didn't have the time to look into. Walk. Watch great thought provoking, or silly funny movies. Anything. Something. Distraction is the best way to deal with pain. Don't give it time to amplify its existence! ;-)
    Osteoarthritis & DDD.
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