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An epidural steroid injection is a non-surgical procedure that can help relieve neck, arm, back, and leg pain caused by inflamed spinal nerves due to a spine condition like spinal stenosis or a herniated disc. During this procedure, a corticosteroid (anti-inflammatory medicine) is injected into the epidural space, which is the area between the bone and the protective sac of the spinal nerve. There are two methods your doctor may use to inject the medication: interlaminar, in which the doctor will inject the epidural space from behind, and transforaminal, when the injection goes in from the side.
Fluoroscopy is used to direct the needle into its proper position, which allows your doctor to watch the needle in real time on the x-ray monitor. A dye is injected first to ensure the needle is in the right place, and the medicine will follow. The injection works to relieve pain by reducing inflammation around the spinal nerves; while the treatment can provide pain relief, it will not make a herniated disc smaller or fix whatever spine condition is causing the pain.
Pain relief is usually felt two to three days after injection, but can take up to a week to take effect depending on the patient. The amount and duration of pain relief can also vary from weeks to years, and is dependent on many factors. It is important to discuss with your doctor your response to epidural steroid injections in order to plan future treatments.