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What is a spinal injection?

spine painA spinal injection can help reduce your pain and improve your functionality. The procedure can reduce inflammation resulting in relief of pain. A spinal injection also can be used for diagnostic purposes to help your physician identify the source of your pain.

Spinal injections can help relieve pain caused by inflamed spinal nerves due to spinal stenosis or disc herniation in your neck, arm, back, or legs.

What to Expect

    • Vertebrae (vertebra, singular) are 33 block-shaped, interlocking bones that form your spinal column. The spine has three natural curves that form an S-shape. Cervical vertebrae are located in the neck curve, thoracic vertebrae in the mid-to upper-back curve, and lumbar vertebrae in the lower back curve. Each individual vertebra have three main functions: they protect the spinal cord and are used for load-bearing and ligament attachment.
    • Discs are located between each vertebra and act as shock-absorbers and tough ligaments to hold the vertebrae together, allowing for slight mobility in the spine. Herniated discs or discs with “wear and tear” may cause inflammation and pain. Discs need hydration and, over time, may dry out and become stiff. This disc degeneration, while a natural aging process, can cause lasting pain.
    • Spinal nerves branch off the spine and carry messages back and forth between the body and spinal cord to control movement and sensations. Thirty-one pairs of nerves branch from the spinal cord and can become irritated or inflamed, causing pain.
    • Epidural space is a fat-filled area between the bone and the protective sac of the spinal nerve. Anti-inflammatory medicine placed in this space can help reduce spinal nerve inflammation.
    • You will be provided with written and verbal instructions regarding preparation for your procedure. Spinal injections are outpatient procedures, which means they are not done in the physician’s office.
    • These instructions may include:
      • You will need to provide a list of your current medications and any medication allergies to the facility where the procedure will be performed. You may need to stop certain medications such as blood thinners and anti-inflammatory medicines. The physician’s office will inform you which medications need to be stopped and when.
      • If you are on certain medications prescribed for heart conditions by a cardiologist, you may be asked to contact your cardiologist for clearance before stopping these medications.
      • You may take Tylenol® in absence of any anti-inflammatory during this time.
      • You may be required to have a driver present with you at the procedure. Please check with your physician.
    • If you have any questions regarding your injection, please contact your physician’s office.
  • Below is a brief description of what to expect during your procedure:

    • You will be placed in a prone (on your stomach) position on the procedure table. You will have monitoring devices attached to you during the procedure.
    • A fluoroscope will be used to provide X-ray imaging.
    • Your skin will be sterilized and a sterile drape will be placed over your skin.
    • A local anesthetic will be given near the injection site to numb the skin. This usually burns similar to a bee sting.
    • Contrast dye will be injected to confirm the correct placement of the needle.
    • You will hear the physician giving instructions to the other healthcare staff in the room. Please do not move during the procedure as this could disrupt the physician’s sterile field.
    • Bandages will be placed over the injection site(s).
    • You will be monitored in recovery until the medical staff releases you. You may be asked to fill out paperwork before leaving.
    • You may need to have someone drive you home.
    • If you have discomfort around the injection site, you may use ice packs on the area for 10-20 minutes at a time.
    • You can take a shower, but avoid baths, pools or hot tubs for 24-48 hours.
    • You can resume all normal activities within 2-4 hours after your injection.
    • There are some side effects you may experience that should go away within a few days, including:
      • Brief increased pain
      • Headache
      • Facial flushing
      • Hiccups
    • It may take up to a week or longer for the medication to reduce inflammation and pain.
    • You should be scheduled for a follow-up with your physician. If you do not have a follow-up scheduled, please call your physician to schedule.
  • Spinal injections can have certain risks and complications that can include:

    • Spinal Headache
    • Bleeding (very rare)
    • Infection (very rare)

    Call your physician or go to the nearest Emergency Room or Urgent Care if you experience any of the following symptoms: severe pain or headache, fever or chills, loss of bowel or bladder control, progressive weakness, redness or swelling around the injection site(s).

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