Epidural Steroid Injection FAQ

Will this injection cure my problem?

Although this procedure may give excellent pain relief, it will not fix the herniated disc or pinched nerve. Although you may have to return for a repeat series of epidural steroid injections in future years, many people prefer this treatment than having surgery to repair the defect.

Are you going to give me a shot in my back?

Yes. This is the best and easiest approach to the epidural space. We do not inject anything directly into the spinal nerves or spinal cord. As stated above, by using the epidural space, the medicine can soak into the nerves and discs.

I only have pain in my arm. Why are you giving me a shot in the neck?

As stated, the nerves which supply feeling to your arms and hands come from the spinal cord in your neck (the cervical spine). The site of irritation of this nerve is usually in the cervical spine where the nerve leaves the spinal canal or backbone.

I only have pain in my leg. Why are you giving me a shot in the back?

As stated, the nerves which supply feeling to your legs come from the spinal cord in your lower back. The site of irritation of this nerve is usually in the lower back where the nerve leaves the spinal canal or backbone.

Is this procedure safe? What are the risks?

As with any procedure, there are always certain risks involved with injections. Epidural steroids have proven to work very well and carry very low risks of injury. However, any time you receive a shot there is a minimal risk of complications. It is rare that these complications ever cause a significant problem. The following are some of the possible complications:

  • Bleeding at the site of the injection: usually associated with the use of medications that affect blood clotting or in someone who has a clotting problem. These medications need to stop for a certain amount of time prior to the procedure.
  • Pain during or after injection: This is not a common problem, but may occur when there is significant swelling and irritation of the nerve root prior to the injection. This is usually self limiting (it doesn't last long).
  • Post-spinal headache: Occasionally the needle makes a hole in the dura (the membrane that covers the spinal fluid and nerves) and causes leakage of cerebral spinal fluid. This is called a "wet tap". This does not occur very often, but when it does, the patient gets a particular type of headache. As stated, this is an uncommon occurrence and there is a treatment for this type of headache when it occurs.
  • Reaction to medications: side effects of the cortisone include swelling around the eyes, emotional irritability, changes in menstrual period, and flushing of the face.
  • Irritation of the spinal nerves: the needle or the steroid (cortisone) can increase pain for a few days, but resolves afterwards.

Will these steroids cause my muscles to increase like the athletes that take illegal steroids?

No. These steroids are anti-inflammatory agents, not the anabolic steroids like athletes use.