Here is some information about having an epidural injection for chronic back pain.
The treatment described here may be adapted to meet your individual medical needs, so it’s important to follow your doctor’s advice. Please raise any concerns or questions with your doctor or nurse. It is natural to feel anxious before hospital treatment but knowing what to expect can help.
What’s an epidural injection?
“Epidural” refers to the space surrounding the outer protective covering of the spinal cord.
For some people, an injection into the epidural space can help to relieve back pain or sciatica (shooting pain from the back down one or both legs) at least in the short-term. This period of pain relief may allow them to become more active. Keeping active is crucial to recovery from chronic back pain.
The epidural injection for chronic back pain consists of a steroid, a local anaesthetic or a combination of the two. These drugs are put into the epidural space using a special needle. The position of the injection depends on which spinal nerves are responsible for the pain. This is usually in the lumbar region of the back (below the level of your lowest rib).
It can take up to a week for the full benefits of an epidural injection to be felt. The effects of a successful injection can last anything from a few weeks to several months. Repeat injections (usually up to a maximum of three) to the same area of the back may be given over a six-month period. The procedure is routinely carried out as a day-case, with no overnight stay.
The injection is usually given under a local anaesthetic. This means you will stay awake during the procedure, but you may be offered a sedative to help you relax. For more information, please see the separate Spire Healthcare patient information leaflet Having a local anaesthetic or sedation. Your doctor will explain the benefits and risks of having an epidural injection for chronic back pain, and will also discuss the alternatives to the treatment.