The case for and against epidural injections for sciatica

Tess Thompson

The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the human body. It exits from the lower spine and ends at the heels. The nerve sometimes gets compressed due to certain physical contortions in the vertebras. This can cause what is called sciatica pain. Sciatica pain beams along the entire length of the nerve and can be painful.

The extreme nature of the pain makes pain management an integral part of any sciatic nerve treatment. Physicians attempt to alleviate severe pain by using epidural steroid injections. The process uses live X-Rays. A needle is guided to the exact epidural space using these X-rays. An epidural solution is injected directly in the area where the pain exists. The patient is kept under observation for about an hour and then allowed to go home.

An epidural injection is usually recommended in two cases:

  • For relieving severe pain
  • For patients who are unable to rehabilitate due to pain.

Epidural steroid injections can be extremely beneficial in cases where other sciatica alternative remedies have failed. The effects of an epidural injection tend to be temporary, but they do provide relief from severe pain and allow rehabilitation to progress.

Epidural injections are so effective and successful because the steroid is placed directly at the area causing pain. If the patient responds positively to the epidural injection, the treatment needs to be repeated once a year. This can allow the rehabilitation program to carry on without any major interruptions.

A normal epidural injection has minor risks. But any kind of steroid medication does have a number of side effects.

  • Temporary decrease in immunity
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Severe arthritis of the hips
  • Cataracts
  • High blood sugar
  • Increased appetite
  • Flushing

Epidurals are not prescribed for those described below:

  • At risk for local or systemic bacterial infections or bleeding problems
  • Pregnant women
  • Patients with a possibility of a tumor or infection

Patients under treatment for other disorders should check with their doctor first before undergoing an epidural injection for sciatica.

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