Chronic back pain can be disabling and affect your general productivity and overall life quality. Fortunately, Great Neck, NY pain management procedures like an epidural injection can help you manage back and other chronic pain. An epidural is also an alternative to general anesthesia for certain surgeries and provides pain relief for labor and childbirth. Below are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about an epidural injection.
How does an epidural injection work?
An epidural injection involves injecting anesthesia into the area between the dura matter and vertebral wall to stop pain signals from traveling to your brain from the spine. The epidural space is like a liquid sleeve around your spinal cord; it contains spinal nerve roots, loose connective tissues, small arteries, adipose tissue, and lymphatics. Depending on the type of anesthetic your provider uses, its concentration, and dosage, epidural anesthesia can offer temporary pain relief or a temporary total lack of sensation.
How painful is an epidural injection?
You will experience a minor pinch as your provider numbs the treatment site using local anesthesia. As the doctor injects the epidural, you may feel pressure, tingling, or momentary shooting pain; you may also not feel anything. Any discomfort during the injection usually disappears once the doctor withdraws the needle. Inform your provider immediately if you have severe sharp pain during or after the epidural procedure.
What are the risks of epidural injections?
Epidurals are usually safe, but like any procedure involving a needle, there is a risk of bleeding, nerve damage, and infection. However, when performed by a professional, these risks are exceedingly low and outweighed by the benefits. Although rare, you can feel lightheaded due to low blood pressure or may experience a severe headache. The latter is caused by spinal fluid leakage; it is rare and affects less than 1% of people. Some patients negatively react to the medication and may experience hot flashes or a rush.
Does an epidural injection cause back pain?
There is a popular notion that epidurals will cause back pain in the future, but it is rare for an epidural to cause chronic back problems. Experiencing temporary back pain or tenderness at the injection site is expected, but this usually fades away within a few days.
The association between epidural injection and back pain stems from the fact that many people experience back pain after childbirth, whether they had an epidural or not. This is because the extra weight you gain during pregnancy taxes your bone and ligaments in your pelvis, back, and surrounding areas. You may experience back pain as these bones and ligaments return to their initial position before pregnancy.
What are the long-term side effects of an epidural procedure?
Although rare, epidural injections can cause long-term side effects like permanent neurologic deficit; this occurs if spinal cord or nerve root damage occurs during the procedure. Spinal cord or nerve root damage can also result in chronic pain. Sometimes, one may have permanent paralysis when a hematoma occurs between the dura mater and the spinal cord.
If you have further questions about an epidural injection, consult your doctor at AABP Integrative Pain Care.