If you’re living with chronic lower back pain, transforaminal epidural steroid injections can offer you the chance to live pain-free. These injections use an anesthetic and a steroid to fight pain and inflammation in the lower back and legs. Visit The Pain Experts of Arizona to discuss the pain-relieving potential of transforaminal epidural steroid injections, or keep reading to learn more.
The lumbar spine (lower back) is the most mobile and active part of our spine. Five large vertebrae are designed to provide mobility and stability as we move throughout our lives. These vertebrae provide a protective structure to support the spinal cord and its many nerves. Each vertebra is connected to its neighbors above and below with facet joints. Intervertebral discs cushion the movement of each vertebra against the others, too. With a high degree of movement and so many different elements, the lower back is susceptible to a variety of conditions that can cause both acute and chronic pain.
Transforaminal epidural steroid injections can help treat pain that involves the nerve delivering sensation to your legs and feet. The injection is delivered directly to the opening where these nerve roots exit the spine (the foramina).
Essentially, any lower back pain condition that involves the nerve roots enervating the legs and feet can be treated with transforaminal epidural steroid injections. Because of this specific placement, the following conditions can be treated successfully with these injections.
Sciatica is not a painful condition in and of itself. It is a type of radiating pain that originates in the lower back and can travel all along the sciatic nerve. Your sciatic nerve is the longest, widest nerve in the body. Injury or damage anywhere along its length can lead to debilitating pain.
Bulging or herniated disc
Bulging or herniated discs occur when uneven pressure in the vertebrae squeezes the cushioning discs out between two vertebrae. This puts pressure on the nerves and causes radiating pain.
Over time, gravity and wear can cause the spinal column to narrow. This condition is called spinal stenosis, and it causes pain that makes even simple movements challenging. When this occurs, transforaminal steroid injections can ease the pain caused by pinched nerves.
Transforaminal epidural steroid injections’ benefits include long-term pain relief for sciatica and other types of pain. When additional injections are necessary, large studies have found statistically significant pain relief, too.
Other transforaminal epidural steroid injections benefits include:
Minimally-invasive procedure that can reduce the need for surgery
Little or no downtime following the procedure
Can be coordinated with other treatments
Low risk of side effects or complications
Many people who receive transforaminal epidural steroid injections report pain relief that begins 30 minutes or so after the procedure. Pain may reappear as the local anesthetic administered during the procedure wears off, but this is usually temporary. The full effects of the injection will be felt two or three days after the injections. Many patients report months of continued pain relief. How they affect you will come down to your body and underlying pain condition.
Your transforaminal epidural steroid injections recovery period will be quick and easy. On the day of your procedure, it’s best to have a friend or family member give you a ride home. Plan to take the rest of the day off to rest and relax. Avoid vigorous exercise or activity, and no driving for 24 hours following your injection.
It’s okay to eat a regular diet and take your regular medications on the day of your procedure but always talk to your doctor first to be sure. Your doctor will have specific care instructions for the injection site, but in general, these injections are like getting a vaccination. You can shower and go about your day, as usual, letting your pain levels be your guide.
It generally takes two or three days to start feeling the pain-relieving effects of transforaminal epidural steroid injections but call your doctor if you are still in pain after ten days.3
These injections are generally recognized as safe, but every medical procedure comes with potential side effects and risks. Transforaminal epidural steroid injections side effects are mild and rare but can include soreness, bleeding, and bruising at the injection site. Treat any symptoms with over-the-counter pain medications and ice for swelling. Talk to your doctor if they last more than a few days.
Other more serious but very rare transforaminal epidural steroid injections risks include the following:
Weakness in the legs
Increase in pain
Allergic reaction to injected medications
Injury to the spinal cord or damage to the tissues
The more serious side effects occur most often as a result of improper placement of the injection. Work with a pain specialist who uses X-ray guidance and has dedicated experience with the procedure to help reduce your risks. Always clearly detail any pre-existing conditions or allergies you have as well.