It has been said that in many cases acute or chronic back pain can subside on it’s own within 3-6 months. This does not always mean that the source of the pain has healed but the inflammation in the nerves that causes pain sensations may have diminished. Epidurals are particularly effective in these cases as they enable a person to return to every-day activities; be that work, or exercise, much sooner that waiting months for pain to subside on its own. In cases where chronic pain does not subside within this period an epidural may have a short-term impact and may be a stepping stone to a more permanent treatment & long-term solution.
As mentioned above, there may be more than one spinal structure causing your spine pain. Sometimes, there are multiple causes for your spine pain or radiculopathy. In this case, Dr. Lee may recommend alternative treatment options or steriod injections. For example, if your sciatica/leg pain or hand pain improves with epidural steroid injection but you still have low back pain or neck pain, you may benefit from facet joint injections. But, whatever the case, you will need further evaluation by Dr. Lee to decide on further treatment. Remember that there are multiple treatments available now for pain and just because one method yielded partial or no response DOES NOT necessarily mean you will “just have to live with the pain”!
This is a rare complication that may occur if a small hole is made in the fibrous sac and does not close up after the needle puncture. These small holes are only made in less than 1% of epidural injections and usually heal on their own. The spinal fluid inside can leak out, and when severe, the brain loses the cushioning effect of the fluid, which causes a severe headache when you sit or stand. These types of headaches occur typically about 2-3 days after the procedure and are positional - they come on when you sit or stand and go away when you lie down. If you do develop a spinal headache, it is OK to treat yourself. As long as you do not feel ill and have no fever and the headache goes away when you lay down, you may treat yourself with 24 hours of bed rest with bathroom privileges while drinking plenty of fluids. This almost always works. If it does not, contact the radiologist who performed the procedure or your referring physician. A procedure (called an epidural blood patch) can be performed in the hospital that has a very high success rate in treating spinal headaches.