When and Why to Consider an Epidural Injection for Your Lower Back Pain

Mar 29, 2022

Back pain is one of the most common reasons people call out sick from work, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. In most cases, back pain resolves on its own with at-home care.

However, when you have ongoing lower back pain that fails to improve with at-home care, you may wonder: What next?

At Cascade Orthopaedics in Auburn and Bonney Lake, Washington, our highly skilled team of providers takes a step-by-step approach to the lower back. We start with conservative pain management care and work our way up to more invasive treatments like an epidural injection when other treatments fail to alleviate your discomfort. 

In this blog, we want you to know when and why it’s time to consider an epidural injection for your lower back pain.

Treatment for lower back pain

Treatment for lower back pain varies. For acute pain, you may feel better within a few days or a few weeks with over-the-counter medication, heat and ice, and gentle stretching.

For chronic lower back pain, which is pain that lasts three or more months, we take a step-by-step approach. Initially, we recommend all of the above at-home care, plus prescription medications like muscle relaxers or anti-inflammatories and physical therapy. 

Epidural injection: when and why

When do we consider an epidural injection? When physical therapy, medication, and other non-invasive treatments fail to control your lower back pain. Then, it’s time for joint injections like an epidural. 

But an epidural injection isn’t the right treatment for everyone suffering from lower back pain, which brings us to our why. We only consider an epidural injection if we know you have back pain because of inflammation of the spinal root nerves, such as with sciatica (compression of the sciatic nerve root in the lumbar spine). 

An epidural injection contains an anesthetic and corticosteroid. The anesthetic provides immediate pain relief, while the corticosteroid reduces inflammation. 

What to expect

An epidural injection is a quick, outpatient procedure. After changing into an exam gown, we have you lie face down on an X-ray table. We clean the area where we plan on giving the injection with an antiseptic agent and provide a local anesthetic to numb the area.

Then, using X-ray-guided imaging, we insert the epidural needle into your back until we reach the epidural space. The epidural space is the fat-filled area in your spinal canal that provides cushioning between your spinal bones, spinal cord, and spinal nerves. 

Once the needle is in the correct spot (near the nerves causing your pain), we inject the medication. We send you to the recovery area for monitoring and discharge you home.

Pain relief following an epidural injection for lower back pain varies. Some get relief for days and others for years. If you get positive results from an epidural, we can repeat the injections as needed every few months.

Most importantly, you may get enough relief from your discomfort so you can participate in the physical therapy your body needs to get long-term relief. 

When conservative care fails to ease your lower back pain from spinal nerve inflammation, then we consider an epidural injection.

Don’t let your pain keep you from living your life. Our multidisciplinary team can help you get the treatments you need for your lower back pain. Call our office or book an appointment online today.