Injections for Back Pain Relief
In some cases, corticosteroid injections may be used to hopefully provide patients with several months of back pain relief. These injections are helpful on their own as a mid-term back pain treatment, and they may enable patients and their therapists the necessary time to get through other types of conservative treatments, such as physical therapy. Often, physical therapy involves the daily performance of several different types of back exercises, that involving lifting and arching the arms, legs, and back in multiple directions. Each one of these exercises involves many repetitions on each side of the body, before the entire workout routine is over. These exercises may elevate pain levels in patients who are already suffering when at rest. This pain and discomfort may cause patients to fatigue quickly, and suffer from just too much discomfort to make it through entire routine sessions. With these steroid injections, patients may experience a remission in their pain levels to buy them enough time to get through an entire physical therapy program before the symptoms return. The hope of a treatment program that involves injections is that the pain relief will buy the patients and their therapists with enough time to make the back stronger and more flexible so that the back pain symptoms never return.
Injections may be an alternative to back surgery, though it is listed technically as a minimally invasive surgery that requires you to have an escort to drive you home following the recovery period for the procedure. This treatment is a procedure that you will walk out of the clinic afterwards, after a brief recovery period. This treatment may be used as a complementary therapy to physical therapy, or it may be used after a course of medications and/or PT has been completed. Most doctors will recommend that patients try this procedure before considering back surgery, due to their relatively high complication rates and relatively low success rates.
Injections as a Diagnostic Tool and Back Pain Treatment: Here are two of the most interesting things about steroid injections as a treatment.
- If effective, this treatment may provide significant relief that lasts from 6 months, up to a year.
- If effective, patients often experience immediate pain relief even from the time they pull themselves up from the operating table.
Doctors may also use this treatment as a diagnostic tool to find the main pain generator. The main pain generator is the physical source of the back pain that can be identified in a specific location in the back. Often, the region of the back though to be the pain generator, based on imaging tests such as MRIs, isn't the actual cause of the person's back pain. This misidentification of the pain generator is thought to be the reason why so many back surgeries fail to provide patients with lasting pain relief. Back surgeries fail to provide treatment s benefits often enough that these is a name for it that is regularly used: Failed Back Surgery Syndrome (BFSS).
These injections may help doctors test their assumptions that a particular location of the back is the source of the patient's pain. Typically, doctors may be able to test their assumptions before the delivery of the steroid medication is even required. Before steroid injections are delivered into the epidural space around the spinal cord, the doctor delivers an injection of a numbing agent (usually lidocaine) directly into are close to the joint or other structure that is thought to be the cause of pain. If the patient reports immediate relief following the delivery of the numbing agent, the doctor may have a higher degree of certainty that that part of the spine is the source of pain.
Oral medications involve the consumption of large amounts of medication, which either are designed to provide pain relief, inflammation-reduction, or a treatment for the disease causing the patient's symptoms. These medications may have the effect of modifying pain levels, but they also cause side effects which affect the ability of our body to protect the lining of our digestive track or reduced our body's ability to fight infectious diseases and cancer. These oral medications may either fail to do the job that they were intended to, or they provide the desired treatment results but cause damage to the body. Injections are designed to deliver a much smaller volume of medications to a small and specific area of the anatomy thought to be the cause of pain. Steroid injections are powerful anti-inflammatories that do not cure the cause of the problem, but may offer months of pain relief for longer.
The procedure involves the injection of the lidocaine numbing agent near the same level of the spine where the injection will occur. The response that the patient has to the lidocaine may determine what types of diagnosis the patient is given and what types of treatments receive in the future.
The most common types of injections for back pain relief include the Epidural, Facet Joint Block, Facet Rhizotomy, Sacroiliac Joint block, and selective nerve root block (SNRB).