What Are Lumbar Epidural Steroid Injections?
Lumbar epidural steroid injections are a non-surgical form of treatment for lower back pain and radicular pain. This technique was first introduced during the 1950s as a novel treatment for lumbar back pain and sciatic nerve pain.
Lumbar pain refers to discomfort in the lower regions of the back that may extend into the buttocks and down the legs.
The purpose of epidural steroid injections is to administer medication to irritated or inflamed nerves in order to decrease inflammation. The medication is a combination of an anesthetic and steroids. If the injection is performed successfully, it can provide almost immediate pain relief in the lumbar region of the back and may also improve other symptoms that may be occurring such as numbness, weakness, tingling, and pain in the lower extremities.
In addition to being used for the management of back pain, a lumbar epidural steroid injection is also commonly used as a diagnostic test. More specifically, a physician may try to pinpoint the exact region where the affected nerves are located by injecting the medication into a specific area of the lower back. If the pain dramatically decreases or stops after the injection, then the physician can conclude that the pain source has been properly identified.
An effective diagnostic injection also confirms the notion that inflamed nerves were contributing to the pain. If two steroid injections provide a patient with significant pain relief, then a treatment plan that offers more long-term results such as receiving additional injections and physical therapy or the possibility of undergoing surgery can be discussed.
How Are Lumbar Epidural Steroid Injections Performed?
To provide a better understanding of the injection procedure and the region that the medication is administered, the spinal region will first be briefly described. There are a vast number of nerves that run along the spinal cord. The nerves extend throughout the entire body and are protected by cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). The spinal cord is also stabilized by a tough membrane within the spinal column. The area that is directly outside of the membrane is referred to as the epidural space. The roots of damaged, irritated, or inflamed nerves, which are the targets for the steroid injections, are located in the epidural space.