Epidural Steroid Injections for Back Pain

When you hurt your back, you might go from feeling like a top scorer for the Miami Heat to a great grandma hobbling to the store. Some things heal quickly and simply on their own, like strains and sprains. For other injuries like ruptured or slipped discs, you should visit a doctor like Dr. Alicia Carter of Miami’s Regenerative Medicine and Orthopedics for your back pain.

Common Back Problems in the US

Each year in the United States, between nine and 25 percent of individuals say they experience a low back pain that travels down to below their knee. It is so common that it is the fifth most common reason people go to see a doctor. For most injuries, aspirin, light activity, and bed rest heal the problem in a few weeks. However, issues with discs can drag on and impede physical therapy.

Platelet Rich Plasma and Steroid Injections Can Help

Two types of shots can help speed healing – platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections and steroid injections. If you’ve visited Dr. Carter before, you probably know about her PRP injections that rush platelets rich in growth factors to the injury site to speed up the healing. Dr. Carter uses these injections and stem cell therapies to help patients with injuries to the spine, joints, muscles, or ligaments. The platelets can come from the patient’s own blood. These stem cell and PRP injections help speed healing, but what about pain relief?

Steroid Injections Provide Pain Relief

You can turn to steroid injections for pain relief if aspirin does not work. Most doctors want to wait six to eight weeks to see how you’ll heal without using steroid shots. The most common type of steroid shot, the cortisone shot, provides relief for about three weeks, states Harvard Health Publishing, but using cortisone shots can’t alleviate the problem permanently. They also don’t work for every patient all the time.

The Lumbar ESI

You do have other options for a lumbar epidural steroid injection (lumbar ESI). These anti-inflammatory medications can be steroidal or corticosteroidal in nature. When administered, the doctor injects the lumbar ESI into the epidural space in your lower back. This helps to reduce swelling, which helps you manage chronic back pain.

The lumbar ESI also does not provide a permanent solution. Similar to a cortisone shot, which is the most common type of lumbar ESI, other types of these medicines last a few weeks to months.

How Lumbar ESI Works

The injection site in the epidural space consists of blood vessels, fat, spinal nerves, and connective tissue. By getting a shot in this area, the lumbar ESI medicine travels directly to the irritated nerve area. The result is less inflammation and a reduction in swelling. Like cortisone, the other types of lumbar ESI don’t work on everyone.

If the epidural steroid injection does work for you, you will obtain temporary pain relief. This provides you with an opportunity to ramp up your physical therapy to improve your health naturally. During this pain-free time, you should participate fully in physical therapy as prescribed by your doctor to improve your overall health and wellness. The pain-free time offers an important opportunity to help heal yourself.

Pain-Free for Physical Therapy

Of course, you can’t heal sciatica completely with physical therapy, but you can significantly improve your wellbeing. In the case of other issues, such as arthritis and lumbar spinal stenosis, daily exercise helps alleviate symptoms and improve outcomes. The pain they cause, however, makes undertaking the exercise problematic. The shot alleviates the pain for a few months, allowing you to maintain an exercise program that naturally helps alleviate the issue. The same is true of disc damage. The steroids shot helps lessen the pain so you can fully participate in physical therapy in an attempt to avoid surgery.

Avoiding Back Surgery

No one wants to undergo back surgery, and doctors do not like having to prescribe it. Physicians prefer to find non-surgical treatment for back pain. Doctors like Dr. Carter develop custom treatment plans that provide lasting benefits for the patient.

In cases involving nerve root irritation or disc damage, doctors prefer to use steroid injections to alleviate a patient’s pain and reduce swelling while using PRP injections to speed natural healing in the area. Using these in combination reduces patient downtime and lets them enter a full regime of physical therapy sooner so they can rehabilitate the damaged area.

Patient Results Differ

How a patient reacts to the shots differs by individual. In some cases, it takes up to six days for relief to begin. In other situations, the patient feels relief for the first 24 hours, then the numbness wears off, and they feel pain for a day or so, then they return to being pain-free for weeks to months. In about one percent of patients, steroid shots have no effect whatsoever.

Choosing the Right Steroid or Corticosteroidal

You should consult closely with your doctor to determine the right steroid or corticosteroidal medication. Your consultation should include a full discussion of your current medications, vitamins, supplements, herbs, medicinal teas, etc. You should discuss what you take that is over-the-counter and what is prescribed. Also, mention if you typically drink more than two alcoholic drinks per day. Your doctor needs to know all of that information to ensure that they choose the appropriate medication to inject. In most cases, your doctor should avoid using intrathecal steroid injections because they include polyethylene glycol, which can cause arachnoiditis.

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