When most people think of epidurals, they think of pregnancy. However, epidurals can be very effective for treating nerve root pain. When the nerves that exit the spine get compressed or irritated, pain, numbness, tingling, burning, and muscle weakness can result. Many times this is caused by a disc bulge, herniation (slipped disc), or leaky disc. Epidural injections can help this type of pain by placing medicine around the irritated nerves.
There are three types of epidurals:
- Transforaminal-Medicine is injected near the disc and nerve root.
- Caudal-Medicine is injected at the base of the tailbone.
- Translaminar-Medicine is injected through the back part of spine.
A minimally invasive procedure is performed by a medical team. Rather than surgery, the procedure is done through a small needle, usually guided by a real-time x-ray or CAT scan. The procedure takes 10-30 minutes to perform with almost no recovery.
For most procedures, you will be given a sedative or medicine to make you sleepy. You will spend about a half an hour in recovery. Many patients do not remember the injection. An epidural can help reduce nerve pain…
Yes, the procedure will help the other treatments be more effective.
Think of putting water on a camp fire. How well you can put out the fire depends on the size of the blaze and the amount of water you apply. It’s the same with nerve pain. Think of the epidural as the water that puts out the fire.
Yes, most insurance plans have coverage for epidural injections. If you have an HMO plan, you may need to get additional authorization from your family doctor. The specialist who performs the procedure will work with your family doctor to get insurance authorization.
- Do not eat or drink (other than sips for pills) for 6 hours prior to the procedure.
- Make sure you have a driver.
- If possible, do not take your pain medications on the morning of the procedure.
- If you are on anti-inflammatory medication, it should be stopped 72 hours before the procedure.
- If you take blood thinners or are diabetic, tell the specialist. You will need to get special instructions.
- If you are pregnant, you shouldn’t have this procedure.
- For more information, see www.spinalinjection.com and click on “For Patients”.
- The doctor has injected anesthetic which will last 3-12 hours. You may have some numbness, tingling, or weakness during this time.
- The anti-inflammatory may take a few days to begin working.
- Start taking all prescribed medications again. This includes any that you stopped because of the procedure.
- You should take it easy for the rest of the day, but you can resume your usual activities the next day.
- Carefully monitor your pain or symptoms and tell your doctor when you follow-up in the office.
- If you’re a diabetic, monitor your sugars more closely.