Back or leg pain can have many causes and can originate in bundles of nerve roots that exit the spine on the sides through an opening called a foramen. When it is known which set of nerve roots may be causing pain issues, including radicular pain or sciatica, steroid injections may be used to reduce the inflammation and swelling that can cause pain, tingling, or numbness. These are often referred to as transforaminal epidural steroid injections.
Long-acting steroids are commonly used and may be combined with saline and a local anesthetic.
These injections are used to reduce pain and to increase mobility. When more conservative treatment options have not been effective, these injections are a minimally invasive alternative to surgery. By using these epidural injections, you may experience relief from pain so that you can perform your daily activities. This procedure may also be used to effectively identify the source of pain or to delay the need for surgical intervention.
How It’s Performed
For the procedure, you will most likely lie on your stomach for proper placement of the needle. You may be given IV sedation, local anesthesia, or both. The needle for the nerve block will be inserted into the skin and through deeper tissues in order to reach the area around the nerve roots so that the medication can be injected. The injection itself only takes about 5 to 10 minutes. Your leg may feel numb or heavy following the procedure. You may have immediate relief or lessening of pain, but this is due to the local anesthetic. True pain relief may take up to three days.
Research shows that pain relief can be substantial, depending on the condition being treated, with up to 75% of patients noting relief. Compared to surgery or some other treatments, this can be a cost-effective option to reduce pain for some conditions.
General side effects include soreness and bruising at the injection site. The medication can also cause soreness in the immediate area for a few days following the procedure. You will have to take it easy for the rest of the day. You may not be able to return to work for a couple of days.
You and your physician should weigh the risks and the benefits of your treatment options before deciding if transforaminal epidural injections are the right choice for you. A nerve root block can be a good option to reduce back or leg pain and to increase movement to increase your quality of life.