Are you looking for a treatment to end your sciatica pain? In addition to discomfort in your lower back, you may experience pain, numbness, or weakness traveling down your leg. And because simple things such as sitting or walking can cause your symptoms to flare up, sciatica can really impact your daily life.
A steroid injection into your lower back, also called the lumbar region, may be an option to explore. Here’s what you need to know about this minimally invasive procedure.
What Causes Sciatica Pain?
Your sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in your body. It starts in your lower back and branches off, running down the back of each leg. If your sciatic nerve becomes inflamed or compressed, you may experience uncomfortable sciatica symptoms.
The most common cause of sciatica pain is a herniated lumbar disc. Your discs sit in between each of the bones of your spine, acting as shock absorbers when you move. But your discs can wear down and develop small cracks over time, allowing the inner portion of your disc to protrude, or herniate, into your spinal canal. When a lumbar disc herniates, it can put pressure on your sciatic nerve.
Other causes of sciatica pain include:
- Spinal stenosis, a narrowing of your spinal canal
- Degenerative disc disease
- Development of bone spurs, an overgrowth of bone, on your vertebrae
Symptoms can be experienced anywhere along the path of your sciatic nerve. You may feel pain in your lower back or pain that radiates into your buttocks or the backs or sides of your legs. You may also develop a tingling or “pins and needles” sensation in your lower extremities. In some cases, weakness can be more severe, causing problems with walking or bowel and bladder control.
How Do Lumbar Epidural Steroid Injections Work?
Epidural steroid injections deliver medication precisely to the area of pain. They generally combine a steroid to reduce inflammation with an anesthetic, such as Lidocaine, to provide quick-acting pain relief.
The procedure itself is relatively quick, lasting about 15-30 minutes. You’ll be placed in a position that will allow your doctor can easily access your back, such as lying on your stomach or side. Your skin will be cleaned and numbed. A special type of X-ray called fluoroscopy is used to help your doctor guide the needle into the correct location. Once the doctor confirms that it’s in the proper place, the medication is injected slowly. You’ll be monitored for a short period of time afterward.
How long the effects last can vary. In some cases, epidural steroid injections work for one week, but in other cases, relief can last for up to a year or more. Patients generally don’t receive more than three steroid injections in a 12-month period.
What Risks Are Associated with Lumbar Epidural Steroid Injections?
You can minimize your risks by carefully selecting the doctor who will perform your epidural steroid injection. It is best to look for a doctor who is board-certified or fellowship-trained and experienced with performing injections. Ask about their experience with epidural injections before you move forward with the procedure. You should also consider the facilities because a surgical center may be preferred over an office setting.
How Successful Are Lumbar Epidural Steroid Injections?
Most people will experience a significant improvement in sciatica symptoms, especially related to leg pain. Steroids may start to work as early as 24 hours after the injection, but it may be a week or two before they fully take effect.
It’s often suggested that sciatica pain patients combine epidural injections with a physical therapy program. The injection can provide temporary relief of your sciatica pain, allowing you to better participate in a structured exercise regimen. Stretching your muscles, strengthening your core, and changing the way you move can lessen your sciatica symptoms and help you avoid flare-ups in the future.
At DISC Sports & Spine Center, we understand that no one wants to live with sciatica pain. Talk to one of our pain management specialists to see if a lumbar epidural steroid injection can help get you back to the pain-free life you deserve.
About the author
discmdgroup DISC Sports and Spine Center (DISC) is one of America’s foremost providers of minimally invasive spine procedures and advanced arthroscopic techniques. Our individually picked, highly specialized physicians apply both established and innovative solutions to diagnose, treat, and rehabilitate their patients in a one-stop, multi-disciplinary setting. With a wide range of specialists under one roof, the result is an unmatched continuity of care with more efficiency, less stress for the patient, and a zero MRSA infection rate. Read more articles by discmdgroup.