Steroid injections are a great tool for helping with pain relief and pain management for a variety of conditions. They’re ideal for hard to reach areas of inflammation or degeneration, and they’re a relatively mild treatment option with few side effects. If you have to choose between surgery or a steroid injection, it’s a pretty easy decision to opt for the steroid injection. However, it’s important to know what the risks are weighed against the benefits. And it never hurts to have an idea of what to expect in terms of results either. With that in mind, we’ll cover what you can expect from most steroid injections and what you should be aware of if it’s a pain relief option that interests you.
Steroid injections are used to treat a variety of joint problems. In fact, if you’ve ever had other joint pain, then you may have had an in-office steroid injection. This is possible because steroid injections into joints like the knee, shoulder, and hip are relatively easy to visualize with minimal risk of hitting important structures that surround them. Spinal steroid injections are a bit trickier. They have to be done under fluoroscopy in order to make sure that the needle does not hit spinal cord structures and enters into any of the small joints correctly. The success rate for an injection to correctly enter a joint under fluoroscopy is much greater than injections, including in other joints, done without.
You can expect a steroid injection to help for anywhere from a week up to a year. This is based on how well the injection was placed and how well your body responds to the steroids. There is no definitive way to tell exactly how you’re going to respond to a steroid injection, however, most people do find some relief for some period of time.
The success rates in most studies have been exceptionally positive. For steroid injections that are placed with fluoroscopy, a majority of patients find some sort of pain relief. These steroid injections performed better for relieving leg pain than for general lumbar relief, but relief was seen in both. In addition, when compared with patients that were injected with a placebo, 80 percent of patients found relief versus the placebo group that had a 48 percent relief rate. While there is a lot of variability in the success rate, the big picture is sound and steroid injections provide a good treatment option for patients that are looking for alternatives to surgery.
As with anything, there are some risks associated with a steroid injection, especially one located close to your spinal cord. The main concerns that need to be watched for involve infection, a dural puncture, bleeding, or nerve damage. Understand that these are all very rare, but still possible. You will need to call a doctor is you have a fever over 101 degrees, severe headaches that resolve when standing, excessive bleeding or bruising, or new pain or numbness.
With years of experience performing spinal steroid injections, the doctors at the Spine Institute of North America are the trusted names in spinal care and pain management. Contact us today for a consult or to schedule the injection you know you need. We’re happy to help!