On the recommendation of a neurologist, I began epidural treatments for back pain in early 2013. These were injections of Depo Medrol used to reduce swelling, and inflammation in my lower back. After several treatments that were largely ineffective, I stopped with the injections and looked for other forms of pain relief.
A quick primer on Epidurals.
There’s a few forms of epidurals and the type that I received were topical without the use of an xray. Epidural injections (for back pain) are a minimally invasive way to block pain at it’s source and typically used for disc herniation, spondylolysis and spinal stenosis and as one recent study points out, are short-term (3 months) solutions for reducing local inflammation.
As the Mayfield Clinic states:
An epidural steroid injection includes both a long-lasting corticosteroid (e.g., triamcinolone, betamethasone) and an anesthetic numbing agent (e.g., lidocaine, bupivacaine). The drugs are delivered into the epidural space of the spine, which is the area between the protective covering (dura) of the spinal cord and the bony vertebrae (Fig. 1). This area is filled with fat and small blood vessels.
The research on epidurals for back pain relief is mixed, including this recent report from the FDA regarding the dangers associated with Epidural Steroid Injections, and some point out the cost vs short term benefit including this article in the Annals of Internal Medicine. However, other studies such as this recent research in Spine Review suggest that epidurals can be an effective method to block pain receptors in the short term. In the end it’s best to discuss these options with your physician who can discuss the pro’s and con’s based on their experience.