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How long does it take for epidural steroid injections to provide relief from neck or back pain?

Epidural steroid injections deliver long-acting anti-inflammatory medications directly into the epidural space that surrounds the spinal cord. These medications can reduce swelling and inflammation around compressed spinal nerves. This, in turn, can alleviate localized and radiating pain, muscle weakness, numbness and tingling sensations.

When will the medication take effect?

The injection procedure, which involves inserting a needle through the skin and into deeper tissues, is usually performed in a physician’s office, sometimes with X-ray guidance. Immediately afterward, most people feel about the same as they did before, although they may have some minor soreness around the injection site. This may be due to the mechanical process of needle insertion or irritation from the volume of the medications injected.

Many people begin to notice meaningful pain relief within two to five days after an injection. If the treatment proves to be beneficial, its effects may last for one week up to one year. If necessary (and at the discretion of a physician), a patient can typically receive up to three injections during a one-year period. Any more than that, however, can increase the risk of side effects, such as osteoporosis (weakened bone tissue). That’s because cortisone can inhibit the body’s production of vitamin D, which in turn can interfere with the absorption of calcium that’s essential for strong bones.

Who can benefit from epidural steroid injections?

Overall, it can be difficult for a physician to predict whether epidural steroid injections will be helpful to a patient. In general, pain that travels down the arms or legs tends to respond better to this treatment than pain that is confined to the neck or back. Similarly, arm or leg pain that came on suddenly and recently may respond better than chronic pain.

If you’re exploring your treatment options for neck or back pain, you may want to discuss epidural steroid injections with your physician, who can help you determine if this treatment is right for you.

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