Feeling pain in your lower back, arm, leg or neck and craving relief? Dealing with chronic discomfort can easily leave you feeling frustrated or hopeless, especially if you’ve already tried various pain management techniques.
However, there is a chronic pain treatment that may be right for you. Caudal steroid injection is an interventional procedure allowing doctors to gain access to a patient’s body cavity without cutting or using electromagnetic radiation.
Read on to learn more about what this procedure is, who may be an ideal candidate, and the injection benefits and risks.
What is a caudal steroid injection?
A caudal steroid injection is a lower back treatment that alleviates or reduces pain and decreases inflammation. The doctor injects a steroid into the lowest portion of the patient’s epidural space, which is a fat-filled area covering the spinal cord to protect it and the surrounding nerves from damage. Caudal steroid injections are often recommended before attempting surgery.
Why would someone undergo this procedure?
You have nerves running from your spinal cord out to your back and legs. When one of those nerve “roots” (the end closest to your spinal cord) gets irritated and inflamed due to a damaged disc or other condition, it can cause back or leg pain. Someone with this uncomfortable condition may find relief from a caudal steroid injection.
How does it work?
Your doctor will inject your nerve roots with the steroid and an anesthetic such as Lidocaine, alleviating or dramatically reducing pain. The steroid targets inflammation, while the anesthetic disrupts pain signal transmission. The treatment is short, and you’ll experience rapid relief. Most individuals return to their normal daily routines the day after they’ve had an injection.
Who is an ideal candidate?
Candidates for caudal steroid injections have back pain and/or discomfort down the leg, arm, and neck. Specifically, people who have the following can benefit from this pain relief treatment:
- Lumbar-disc herniation
- Degenerative disc disease
- Lumbar spinal stenosis
- Vertebral compression fractures
- Cysts in a facet joint or nerve root
- Annular tears
How does a doctor perform a caudal steroid injection?
The injection itself only takes a couple of minutes, but the entire procedure is about 30 to 60 minutes long.
First, your pain specialist will start an IV to administer an intravenous medication to help you relax if you desire. You will lie on your stomach on an X-ray table with your lower back exposed. The doctor will numb an area of skin on your lower back with a local anesthetic. He or she will make sure you’re comfortable and the local anesthesia is working efficiently before continuing on to the injection.
Next, the physician will use X-ray guidance to insert a thin needle into your back, just above your tailbone. Then, he or she will inject a dye to confirm that medicine spreads to the affected nerve(s) in the epidural space. Finally, the physician will inject a solution of anesthetic and steroid medication onto the nerve roots.
What are the benefits, risks, and side effects?
The procedure is an effective nonsurgical treatment for many patients. The benefits include fast recovery, pain relief, fewer risks than invasive surgery, and no required hospital stay. The length of the pain relief is different for each patient. For some, the relief last several months or longer. If the treatment works for you, you can have periodic injections to stay pain-free.
As with most procedures, there will be risks involved like bleeding, infection, nerve injury, or allergic reactions to the medications. Some short-term side effects may occur, but your doctor will walk you through all the possible risks so you’re prepared.
You may experience weakness or numbness if the local anesthetic spreads to nearby nerves. If this happens, you will stay in the pain management center until this resolves. You may have increased pain for a few days after the injection, and those with diabetes may experience short-term elevation of blood sugar. Your pain specialist can help you create a treatment plan in case these side effects do occur.
What happens after the procedure?
After the injection, you’ll return to the recovery area, where your doctor will monitor your condition for about five minutes. He or she will then ask you to keep track of the amount of pain you feel and how long the pain (and/or relief) lasts. Patients may return home the same day; just remember to take it easy so your body can fully recover. You can likely return to your normal activities the day after the procedure.
Patients should look for signs of infection or allergic reactions while resting at home, even though these are rare. You may feel a little sore after the injection, but overall, you can expect pain relief a few days after the procedure. You’ll also make a follow-up appointment with your pain specialist to discuss your progress.
A causal steroid injection treatment may help you find relief from nerve damage-induced pain. The treatment is nearly painless, and an expert can perform the injection efficiently so you can get back to your daily activities soon after. The combination of anesthetic and steroid makes the procedure effective, and most patients report long-lasting pain relief.
Lafayette Pain Care is a pain clinic in Indiana. We’re dedicated to helping our patients find lasting relief from chronic and acute pain so they can return to the activities they love. For more information, please visit our website and like us on Facebook.