Epidural steroid injections treat neck, lower back, and leg pain. Neurosurgeons and pain management experts in Charleston, SC, offer epidural steroid injections (ESIs) to patients who have certain health conditions that cause pain, inflammation, and dysfunction. The injections reduce pain and inflammation, and improve function.

Specially trained neurologists can perform epidural steroid injections in an office setting. These injections treat pain resulting from a number of conditions, such as sciatica, degenerative disc disease, herniated disc, and spinal stenosis.

What is an Epidural Steroid Injection?

An epidural steroid injection is a minimally invasive procedure in which a doctor uses a needle to inject medicine into the patient’s spine. The injection delivers the medication directly to a targeted location into the epidural space, which is the empty space between the spinal column and the spinal cord.

The spinal column is a series of bones that allow the body to move in almost every direction. The spinal cord sits in a narrow canal within the spinal column. The spinal cord connects to the brain and is part of the central nervous system. The spinal cord is a bundle of nerves that relays communications between the brain and the rest of the body. 

Messages travel from the brain down the spinal cord, into nerves that go from the spinal cord to the rest of the body. The body can send certain messages, such as temperature and pain, back up the spinal column to the brain.

Some conditions can cause excessive pain messages to travel back up to the brain. Other conditions can cause inflammation at the nerve root, where the nerve branches off from the spinal cord, to cause pain. Pressure against these nerve roots can also interfere with communication between the brain and the body part, which can prevent the muscles, tissue, or organ from functioning correctly.

The goals of the epidural steroid injection are to alleviate pain by decreasing inflammation in and near nerve roots, improve mobility in the patient’s legs and lower back, and allow the patient to engage in physical therapy or other activities of daily living. Using epidural steroid injections can help limit or eliminate the need for oral pain medications, and even help postpone or eliminate the need for surgery.

The injection contains steroids, which are a class of drugs that reduce the body’s production of inflammatory chemicals. The body’s immune system reacts to injuries and infection by triggering inflammation, which is an accumulation of fluids and chemicals that speed healing. While inflammation is a necessary and beneficial immune response, inflammation can press against nerves to cause pain. Chronic inflammation can also damage tissue to cause dysfunction and pain. Steroids reduce inflammation to ease pain and promote function.

Epidural injections deliver the inflammation-reducing, pain-relieving steroids directly to the nerve roots occupying the epidural space between the spinal column and the spinal cord. Unlike oral medications that saturate the bloodstream with potentially dangerous painkillers, epidural injections deliver steroids directly to the source of pain.

Epidural Steroid Injection Procedure in Charleston, SC

Epidural steroid injections in Charleston, SC, are available on an outpatient basis, which means patients can go home immediately after the procedure. Doctors can perform an ESI procedure in 15 to 45 minutes, depending on the location of the pain and the patient’s condition. Patients typically remain awake throughout the procedure so that they can provide feedback to the doctor, although some patients receive sedation and/or a mild anesthetic to control anxiety or discomfort.

Patients may resume normal activities the next day, although individuals may experience some degree of swelling and discomfort at the injection site.

Most patients begin to experience pain relief a few days after undergoing epidural steroid injections. Pain relief can last a few weeks to several years after the ESI procedure. Many patients experience even greater pain relief and improved mobility for longer periods when combining ESI with physical therapy or other treatments.

Patients should return for a follow-up appointment to discuss the effectiveness of the treatment.

Types of epidural steroid injections in Charleston, SC

There are three main approaches to delivering the steroid into the epidural space. Doctors choose the approach according to the location of the pain. In cervical ESI to treat pain stemming from the neck, the doctors inject the medicine just above the nerve root and outside the epidural space. A lumbar ESI treats lower back pain; it involves injecting the steroid slightly off midline of the back to reach the nerve canal in the spine. A caudal ESI involves placing the needle above the tailbone to reach the nerves exiting the lowest part of the spine.

Because of the safety and efficacy of the procedure, doctors here in Charleston, SC,  provide the epidural steroid injections that their patients need for full and active lives. For more information about ESIs and other treatments for chronic pain, contact the neurosurgery, spine, and pain professionals at Southern Coast Specialists.