Back pain is an extremely common complaint by people all over the world. It can be disabling and interfere with a person’s regular activities that many seek treatment to alleviate the pain. One form of treatment that is catching the interest of many sufferers is epidural for back pain.
The term epidural refers to the epidural space or the space outside the dura, the tough membrane covering and protecting the spinal cord and nerve roots in the spine. Epidural is more known in relation to epidural anesthesia used for pain relief during childbirth. Epidural for back pain follows the same principle and technique as that of epidural anesthesia for childbirth, but the two differ in terms of the drugs used and the ultimate outcome desired.
Epidural for back pain is often recommended for back pains associated with pinched nerves. Pain is caused when the nerve roots are inflamed due to irritation from a damaged disc or from contact in some way with the bony structure of the spine. With an epidural injection, anti-inflammatory medicine (steroid) is immediately introduced directly to epidural space to reduce the inflammation of the nerve roots and the end result is relief from back pain. Epidural for back pain is administered by a physician using either the classic or old-fashioned epidural injection technique where the patient assumes an arched position or with the use of x-ray guidance with the patient lying face down.
Epidural for back pain is a common treatment option that has been in use since the 1950’s. Reports on thousands of patients indicate that epidural for back pain treatments are straightforward and safe. However, as in any invasive medical procedure, there are potential risks involved. The most common side effect is temporary numbness of the bowels and bladder although this should be gone in a few hours. All forms of epidurals are known to have an effect on the blood pressure of some people. To avoid complications, the patient is continuously monitored with EKG, blood pressure cuff, and blood oxygen monitoring device.
In rare cases, the patient does not respond favorably to an epidural for back pain and can develop other complications because of the procedure. Bleeding is a possibility although it is more common for patients with underlying bleeding disorders. Nerve damage can also occur from direct trauma from the needle or from infection or bleeding. Then there is the dural puncture which may cause a post-dural puncture headache which should improve after a few days. Sometimes, a blood patch is needed to relieve the headache. Blood patch is done by obtaining a small amount of blood from the patient’s arm and injecting it into the epidural space allowing it to clot around the spinal sac and seal the puncture.
Try to learn as much as you can about epidural for back pain before seeking the treatment. Study the potential risks involved and ask your physician for guidance. You should not have the injection if you are allergic to steroids or any of the medication to be used. It is also not for you if you are taking blood thinners like Coumadin, Plavix, etc., or if you have an infection somewhere.