What to Expect After an Epidural

Aug 09, 2023

What to Expect After an Epidural

An epidural steroid injection doesn’t correct a herniated disc or other structural changes that might be causing your lower back pain. However, an epidural can address the inflammation and pain of irritated spinal nerves.

The pain management team at Coastal Spine in New Jersey works closely with other members of our multispecialty group to combat discomfort related to painful spinal disorders, restore mobility, and improve quality of life.

Epidural steroid injections are one of the many tools we use to meet that goal. Learn more from our team about the benefits of epidural injections and what to expect afterward.

What benefits does a spinal epidural injection offer?

Structural changes related to herniated discs, osteoarthritis, and many other spinal conditions can narrow the spaces spinal nerves travel when exiting the spine.

Crowding and compression trigger inflammation and pain that you may feel in the area surrounding the pinched nerve. It can also lead to burning or shooting pain, muscle weakness, and other symptoms traveling along the area (dermatome) the nerve serves. 

Depending on the nerve root involved, an irritated spinal nerve may also cause symptoms in the arms, shoulders, chest, buttocks, hips, or legs.

An epidural spinal injection (ESI) contains a mixture of anesthetic and powerful anti-inflammatory drugs (steroids or corticosteroids). 

When injected into the area surrounding your irritated nerve (epidural space), the local anesthetic in the injection offers quick pain relief. At the same time, the steroid component reduces inflammation arising from compressed nerves.

Why would you need an epidural?

An ESI can alleviate pain as you undergo further treatment for conditions that compress spinal nerve roots, such as:

The effects of the injection vary from patient to patient, sometimes offering relief for weeks to several months. Depending on what’s irritating the affected nerve, some people experience long-term, even permanent pain relief.

What to expect after an epidural

Your Coastal Spine specialist provides details of the procedure, aftercare, and long-term expectations before scheduling the injection.

Generally, however, your medical team monitors your vital signs and reactions to the injection for 15-30 minutes after the procedure. You may feel some numbness or weakness in your legs due to the anesthetic. That’s normal and should pass quickly.

You need someone to drive you home afterward due to the anesthetic effects of the injections. Our pain management specialists typically advise resting and avoiding strenuous activities for 24 hours.

You may experience tenderness at the injection site in the first few days following the procedure. Ice packs and over-the-counter pain medications can alleviate the discomfort. The full effects of the injection typically occur within several days to a week.

Remember that epidural injections are pain management tools used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan. An epidural can make it possible to participate more fully in physical rehab and other conservative therapies, potentially speeding your recovery. 

However, even though your pain may resolve after the injection, you must continue with back pain treatment as directed by your spine specialist. 

For more information about epidural steroid injections or other services we offerschedule an evaluation at Coastal Spine today. Call the office or request an appointment online.