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The wait between epidural steroid injections — what you need to know

Epidural steroid injections can help a patient manage neck or back pain by reducing inflammation around an irritated spinal nerve. When performing this in-office procedure, a physician will inject a combined anesthetic and steroid medication into the epidural space of the spine. For enhanced accuracy in the delivery of the medications, some physicians use X-ray guidance (fluoroscopy).

In general, epidural steroid injections are considered to be an interventional pain management option. This means that they should be used only after less invasive approaches such as exercise, stretching, hot/cold therapy and chiropractic manipulation do not provide sufficient relief. The effects of this treatment can vary widely among individuals based on a number of unique factors.

How long will the effects of an injection last?

If an injection is successful, the resulting effect should become apparent within two to five days. Any relief achieved will be temporary, lasting from approximately a few weeks to a full year after the procedure. In the meantime, a patient may be able to participate in physical therapy without pain, which may help to resolve the underlying issue.

How often can injections be administered?

If necessary, and at the discretion of a physician, epidural steroid injections can be given multiple times — generally up to three times in a one-year period. With sparing use, these medications can be effective for reducing inflammation and irritation, but their overuse can disrupt the body’s natural hormonal balance. That’s because steroids mimic the effects of certain hormones produced naturally by the body. Delaying further injections can allow the body time to restore its proper hormonal balance.

With regard to the time in between injections, most physicians recommend scheduling them approximately six weeks apart. Of course, this is just a general guideline. Additionally, if a patient is doing well, a repeat injection may be unnecessary.

If you would like to learn more about epidural steroid injections, talk with your physician, who can provide you with individualized advice and guidance.

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