Epidural steroid injections (ESIs) are a common treatment option for many forms of low back pain and leg pain. They have been used for low back problems since 1952 and are still an integral part of the non-surgical management of sciatica and low back pain. The goal of the injection is pain relief; at times the injection alone is sufficient to provide relief, but commonly an epidural steroid injection is used in combination with a comprehensive rehabilitation program to provide additional benefit.
Most practitioners will agree that, while the effects of the injection tend to be temporary - providing relief from pain for one week up to one year - an epidural can be very beneficial for a patient during an acute episode of back and/or leg pain. Importantly, an injection can provide sufficient pain relief to allow a patient to progress with a rehabilitative stretching and exercise program
In addition to the low back (the lumbar region), epidural steroid injections are used to ease pain experienced in the neck (cervical) region and in the mid spine (thoracic) region.
Potential Benefits of Injections
Epidural steroid injections deliver medication directly (or very near) the source of pain generation. In contrast, oral steroids and painkillers have a dispersed, less-focused impact and may have unacceptable side effects. Additionally, since the vast majority of pain stems from chemical inflammation, an epidural steroid injection can help control local inflammation while also "flushing out" inflammatory proteins and chemicals from the local area that may contribute to and exacerbate pain.