Your spine is a complex system of bones, ligaments, blood vessels, discs, fluid, and nerves, and all those moving parts have to work in perfect harmony to keep you bending, twisting, and reaching with ease. If any one part becomes damaged or impinges on another’s ability to do its job, you’ll experience pain and immobility. The best treatment plan depends on exactly what’s causing the problem, but very often, whatever the core cause is, it’s accompanied by inflammation.
Our team of physicians at the Pain Institute of Southern Arizona specializes in identifying your neck and back pain and helping you overcome it. But often, the best treatment for your underlying condition is hindered by your pain. That’s when our team may recommend an epidural steroid injection (ESI).
Understanding your spine
Your spine is a long column of bones called vertebrae that stack upon one another. To keep them from rubbing and wearing each other down, your vertebrae are separated by donut-shaped, gel-filled discs that serve as cushions.
Within that column of vertebrae and discs is a superhighway of nerves. The place where they begin is called the nerve root. Because they are very sensitive and very valuable to your sensory and motor skills, they need to be protected. That’s why the nerve roots are surrounded by a dura sac.
The area just outside the dura sac is called the epidural space, and this is the ideal place to deliver medication that will have a direct impact on your painful nerves.
What’s an epidural steroid injection?
When you have pain caused by a compressed nerve, the inflammation that results just adds to your discomfort. Oral medications have to travel a long way before they get to the scene of the pain, and they are often diluted in the process.
An ESI delivers anti-inflammatory medication directly to the site where it can go to work immediately and keep working.
Our team uses advanced imaging called fluoroscopy to guide the injection to the exact right spot in the epidural space. The main ingredient in the injection is a steroid called cortisone, but we may also add a numbing agent called lidocaine to help reduce your pain faster.
ESI for neck and back pain
When doctors refer to your spine, they divide it into three categories: cervical (neck), thoracic (middle), and lumbar (low back).
Anywhere along your spine, you may experience injuries or degenerative conditions that cause inflammation, nerve compression, and pain. ESIs are not intended to heal or cure; however, they are very effective at reducing the inflammation and relieving the pain so that you can continue with the treatment plan for your primary problem. Here are a few of the neck and back conditions that may benefit from the pain-relieving boost of an ESI:
- Herniated disc
- Degenerated disc
- Facet joint syndrome
Whether these occur in your neck, midback, or lumbar region, you’ll need a combination of treatments, including physical therapy. An ESI can help you get past the pain and do the work that will heal your condition.
If you’re suffering from chronic neck or back pain that’s keeping you from rehabilitating your injury and getting well, an ESI might be the answer. To find out, give us a call at any of our locations throughout Arizona to book a consultation.