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What Are Steroid Injections?
Steroid injections have been used for years as a treatment for managing lower back, leg, and neck pain. Back pain is widespread. Without treatment, however, discomfort can linger for months or even years. With a steroid injection, inflamed joints and tissue calm down in a shorter amount of time.
Part of an overall treatment plan
Steroid injections are not a quick cure-all. The treatment is helpful for decreasing pain symptoms. If there is an underlying condition causing the back pain, an injection will not cure the condition. Still, the treatment can help people get back to normal life sooner.
How do the shots work?
The goal of a cortisone or steroid shot is to reduce inflammation. This injection can help to stop the cycle of inflammation in the spine and decrease pain. Typically, a local anesthetic is used along with the steroid to reduce pain from the shot. Often, a pain management specialist injects the steroid into the epidural space of the spine. The epidural space is a fatty area surrounding the spinal sac that provides cushioning for nerves. When the spinal passage narrows, this inflammation can cause debilitating pain.
After the injection
Usually, the steroid begins taking effect in 1-3 days. Some patients may have to wait up to a week to start feeling the benefits. In the first day or so after the procedure, patients may feel pain coming back as the anesthetic wears off. However, after another few days, patients experience a significant improvement in pain symptoms. Often, the pain relief lasts for several months. Patients who experience a significant reduction in pain can schedule periodic steroid injections to keep symptoms at bay.
Other treatment options
Steroid injections are often used in conjunction with other pain management treatment options. Doctors may prescribe pain medications or anti-inflammatories. Physical therapy can also offer significant benefits. Often, patients who deal with chronic pain have learned to move in ways that compensate for the pain and don’t improve pain long-term. Physical therapy helps patients to build strength and re-learn how to move safely and effectively.
Am I a good candidate?
Injections are beneficial for patients with a variety of conditions. Some of the most common conditions that benefit from the treatment include spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis, herniated discs, degenerative disc disease, and sciatica. For specific recommendations about reducing lower back pain, patients should speak with a pain management specialist.