Treating spinal stenosis with epidural steroid injections
Spinal stenosis is described as the narrowing of the spinal canal in your lumbar or lower back. As the spinal canal narrows, the nerves can become pinched as a result of degenerative disorders such as bone spurs, bulging or herniated discs, facet joint cysts, thickening ligaments and arthritis of the spine. Epidural steroid injections are often used to treat the symptoms of spinal stenosis when more conservative treatments are not effective.
Epidural steroid injections are able to provide a temporary, and sometimes long-term, relief because they contain a corticosteroid, which is a powerful synthetic chemical that reduces inflammation and pain caused by spinal stenosis. Read on to learn more about whether epidural steroid injections would be helpful for treating your spinal stenosis symptoms.
Do I need epidural steroid injections for spinal stenosis?
If you have been diagnosed with spinal stenosis, you may be experiencing the following symptoms:
Traveling pain to extremities
Tingling, numbness and stiffness
Weakness in the legs
Cramping or muscle spasms
Difficulty balancing and walking
Headaches and overall physical weakness
Before using an epidural steroid injection for spinal stenosis, a physician is likely to recommend these conservative treatments first:
Rest or reduced activity
Traction or inversion tables
Physical therapy or chiropractic visits
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
Low-impact exercises, such as walking or swimming
However, if these initial spinal stenosis treatments have not provided the pain relief you hoped for and your symptoms remain persistent and severe, an epidural steroid injection may be the next course of treatment. In addition to the pain relief these injections provide, an added benefit is that they can allow you to engage in exercise and physical therapy that would otherwise be difficult without them.
First, imagery like an MRI, CT scan or X-ray is used to find the area along your spinal column where the pain and discomfort originates. For instance, lumbar spinal stenosis, the most common form of the condition, occurs in the lower (lumbar) spine. If you have cervical spinal stenosis, the narrowing of the spinal canal occurs in the upper (cervical) spine.
During the epidural steroid injection procedure, a fluoroscope, or real-time X-ray, is used by the doctor to find the exact spot of narrowing in your spinal column. A local anesthetic is often applied to numb the area of injection. Finally, a large needle is inserted into the epidural space outside the spinal cord, in order to inject the corticosteroid right to the source of nerve compression.
Corticosteroid injections are extremely effective for many patients, with some reporting immediate relief. Doctors will usually limit frequency of epidural steroid injections because they can cause serious long-term side effects, including hypertension, osteoporosis and weight gain. Short-term temporary effects from the injections may include slightly raised blood sugar, nausea, dizziness, headaches and insomnia.
Surgical alternatives for spinal stenosis
If you have been through round after round of conservative treatments, including epidural steroid injections, and your life is still being disrupted by painful stenosis symptoms, your doctor may recommend seeing if you are a candidate for either traditional or minimally invasive spine surgery.
Traditional open back surgery can come with many difficulties, such as leading to a hospitalization of two to five days. USA Spine Care offers a safer and effective alternative for spinal stenosis by using a less than 1-inch, muscle-sparing incision, which results in no lengthy recovery as well as a lower risk of complication and a lower infection rate compared to traditional open back surgery.^
At USA Spine Care, we offer minimally invasive procedures for spinal stenosis such as a laminotomy, which is able to remove the offending agent that is narrowing the canal in order to alleviate the symptoms associated with this condition. We are pleased to have helped more than 75,000 patients to date find relief from their debilitating conditions. Contact USA Spine Care today and request a no-cost MRI review* to learn if our outpatient procedures would be effective in relieving your chronic neck or back pain.
Learn more today
If you're living with spinal stenosis in the upper spine and searching for relief, reach out to USA Spine Care for help. Our multidisciplinary team is dedicated to helping people develop the right care plan to reach treatment goals and achieve lasting relief.
Patients can expect recovery to last 4-6 weeks in most cases (depending on the complexity of your condition). People who choose minimally invasive spine surgery recover faster and get back to work sooner than those who choose open back surgery. Read more in the links below: Recovery After a ProcedureWhat to ExpectRecovery Times
Problems from anesthesia.
A deep infection in the surgical wound.
A skin infection.
Nerve injury, including weakness, numbness, or paralysis.
Tears in the fibrous tissue that covers the spinal cord and the nerve near the spinal cord. These tears may require more surgery.
Trouble passing urine, or loss of bladder or bowel control.
Long-term (chronic) pain, which happens after surgery in some cases.
The chance that the surgery won't relieve your symptoms. And even if you get better with surgery, there is a chance that you may get new symptoms in the future.
Death from problems caused by surgery, but this is rare.
^Results are typical, but not guaranteed, each patients experience with spine surgery will differ.
For more information, visit usaspinecare.com/results. The information contained on this website is for educational purposes only, and is not intended to serve as a replacement for a medical diagnosis.
*Our MRI review is an informational review of the MRI report that you provide to us and is not a form of diagnosis. A diagnosis and a final determination of whether you may benefit from treatment at USA Spine Care can only be made after you have been physically examined by our medical professionals at USA Spine Care. The MRI review has no value and will not be billed.