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Thoracic epidural steroid injections can be used to diagnose and treat a number of spine conditions

Epidural steroid injections can be administered to the thoracic spine (middle back) for both diagnostic and therapeutic purposes. These injections are most commonly used when a physician suspects a diagnosis of — or is attempting to treat the symptoms of — a herniated disc, bulging disc, spinal stenosis or another cause of a pinched nerve in the spine.

What is in an epidural steroid injection?

Epidural steroid injections typically have two components. The first is a local anesthetic, which is used to temporarily numb the area. The second is a corticosteroid, which is used to reduce inflammation and alleviate pain. While the anesthetic typically wears off shortly after the injection, the effects of the corticosteroid can last for several weeks or months. If needed, the injections can be repeated every few months (up to three times in a 12-month time frame).

How do physicians use epidural steroid injections?

Epidural spinal injections can be used in the diagnostic process to help physicians pinpoint the nerve that is pinched or inflamed. Imaging scans can sometimes provide this information, but the results are not always conclusive. When that is the case, a physician can administer an epidural injection that contains a numbing medication to the nerve that he or she believes is causing a patient’s pain. If the injection provides immediate relief, the physician’s suspicions are confirmed.

For patients who have been diagnosed with a thoracic spine condition, epidural injections that contain steroids (cortisone) to reduce inflammation and pain can also be used as a form of treatment. A single injection may provide enough relief that a patient is able to return to his or her everyday activities. For long-lasting results, multiple injections (up to three in on year) may be provided. Stretching and strengthening exercises, physical therapy, lifestyle changes and oral medications may also be recommended as potential treatment options to use alongside thoracic epidural steroid injections.

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