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Will steroid injections provide pain relief for degenerative disc disease?

Degenerative disc disease can cause varying levels of pain. When relief is required, many physicians advise their patients to begin the treatment process as conservatively as possible. Options such as physical therapy and medications can be very helpful, but they are sometimes insufficient. In these instances, the next step may be to consider epidural steroid injections prior to exploring any type of surgery.

Epidural steroid injections involve the placement of powerful medications directly into the epidural space surrounding the spinal cord. The injected medications may include cortisone (which has anti-inflammatory properties), a local anesthetic that can provide short-term pain relief and a saline mixture that can help flush away inflammatory chemicals.

What are the benefits of epidural steroid injections?

Epidural steroid injections can potentially provide more effective degenerative disc disease pain relief than oral steroids and other prescription pain relievers. Here are some of the reasons why:

  • Injected medications can be placed very close to a source of pain in the spine. In contrast, oral medications must enter the bloodstream and then travel throughout the body before reaching a painful area. As a result, injected medications can have a more direct impact on pain.
  • Injections can have fewer side effects than oral medications and, in many cases, can be safely administered up to three times in a one-year period.
  • Injections can better control inflammation in lower back pain by flushing away inflammatory chemicals that can stimulate pain flare-ups.

How are epidural steroid injections administered?

When receiving an injection, a patient is asked to lie face down with a pillow placed under his or her abdomen (to lift his or her back slightly). The physician will clean the injection site and numb it with a local anesthetic. Once the site is ready, the physician will insert a needle into the epidural space of the patient’s spine using live X-ray imaging for guidance, then carefully administer the medications. Afterward, the patient will be monitored for a short time before he or she is cleared to return home.

If epidural steroid injections and other nonsurgical treatments have not provided the degenerative disc disease pain relief you need, your physician may suggest surgery. To learn about your minimally invasive options, contactUSA Spine Care and request a no-cost MRI review.* We can help you determine if you are a candidate for our minimally invasive outpatient surgery.

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