What is an Epidural?

January 13, 2022 | Brain and Spine Specialists

We hear about epidural injections frequently in the medical world, but what exactly are they? An epidural injection is a minimally invasive method of relieving pain and/or swelling for patients that are not responding to the more conservative treatments. The procedure may be used in conjunction with oral medications, physical therapy, and even surgery if needed to treat pain and inflammation. 

What is an epidural used for?

When we think about an epidural injection, our mind often jumps to the thought of childbirth and labor pains. The truth is that this procedure has many practical uses for temporarily relieving pain. Patients experiencing symptoms of pain from a herniated or bulging disk may be good candidates for the procedure as well as those suffering from spinal stenosis. Another common use for epidural injections is to reduce irritation and inflammation caused by degenerative disc disease. Not exclusive to treating back pain, epidural steroid injections can be used to target leg and arm pain in addition to upper and lower back pain.

How is an epidural is given?

Depending on the localization of your pain, there are a few different approaches your doctor may take to deliver the medications. With each approach, the administering doctor will clean and sterilize the skin, and line up the needle using image guidance tools like fluoroscopy (multiple x-ray images) or a CT scan. Usually, a local anesthetic is administered to help numb the injection site. Once the epidural needle is in place, the doctor will inject contrast allowing for the direct and accurate targeting of specific nerves. With the needle still in place, the doctor then slowly injects the combination of medication best suited to treat your pain and inflammation.

What to expect during an epidural

By using a local anesthetic, the goal is to make the procedure as painless as possible. Some patients experience little to no sensation, while others may feel slight pressure and sometimes tingling. Depending on the level of swelling you are experiencing, the procedure may cause some mild discomfort. During an epidural, you should never experience sharp pain. If you do, alert the administering doctor immediately.

What to expect after an epidural

For many patients, pain relief is a gradual process in the 48 hours following the procedure. In some patients, the pain initially feels slightly worse before it starts the progression of relief. Even if you do start to feel immediately better, it is important to take it easy and rest for the remainder of the day to allow your body time to adjust to the medication. On the day following the procedure, you should be cleared to resume normal activities; however, make sure you follow the doctor’s orders following the procedure.

How long does pain relief last from an epidural?

Varying from patient to patient, no two experiences are the same. The benefit you receive from an epidural injection depends largely on the location of the pain, severity, and your unique body composition. Some patients experience immediate pain relief that lasts for a year or more, some are pain free for a few months, and others experience only a week or so of pain management. Some patients may even require a series of procedures rather than just one to experience relief. 

Schedule your Epidural

Our Neurologists at Brain and Spine Center have the experience of performing many successful epidural injection procedures. With over 60 years of combined experience, we have the knowledge to provide unique treatment options specialized to fit your needs. Call our office today to schedule your consultation with Panama City’s leading Neurologists or visit us online for more information!