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How can epidural injections relieve chronic pain?

Akash Bajaj, MD
Anesthesiology

Epidural steroid injections (ESIs) are a common treatment option for many forms of low back pain and leg pain. They have been used for low back problems since 1952 and are still an integral part of the non-surgical management of sciatica and low back pain. The goal of the injection is pain relief; at times the injection alone is sufficient to provide relief, but commonly an epidural steroid injection is used in combination with a comprehensive rehabilitation program to provide additional benefit.

Most practitioners will agree that, while the effects of the injection tend to be temporary - providing relief from pain for one week up to one year - an epidural can be very beneficial for a patient during an acute episode of back and/or leg pain. Importantly, an injection can provide sufficient pain relief to allow a patient to progress with a rehabilitative stretching and exercise program. If the initial injection is effective for a patient, he or she may have repeat therapy.

In addition to the low back (the lumbar region), epidural steroid injections are used to ease pain experienced in the neck (cervical) region and in the mid spine (thoracic) region. This article focuses on epidural injections in the low back area used to treat low back pain and radicular pain (also referred to as leg pain or sciatica).

Injections around the spine (epidural injections of a cortisone derivative and anesthetic) can be used in some cases for constant, severe pain. These injections may give weeks of relief for women who suffer with chronic back pain, fibromyalgia, bursitis, and other related pain.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.