Epidural Steroid Injections For Sciatica: Preparation and Aftercare
The procedure of administering epidural steroid injections for people who are experiencing sciatica is an extremely safe procedure, but there are also some steps that you can take both before and after the injection, to ensure that it is as successful as possible.
If you smoke you must advise your pain consultant who will advise you to refrain from smoking prior to and after the injection. This is simply due to the fact that smoking increases the risk of the injection site becoming infected. This is not a high risk, but smoking increases the risk and if the site does become infected it will take longer for you to recover. Note that even if you are an ‘occasional’ smoker, who does not smoke daily, then you should disclose this.
Generally X-Rays will be used, so if you suspect that you may be pregnant it is important to disclose this to your consultant.
The injection may raise blood sugar levels, so if you have diabetes it is important to discuss this with your consultant, who will be able to give specific advice about checking your blood sugar levels. Note that it is important if you are insulin dependent or have Type II diabetes, so be sure that you understand how to monitor your blood sugar levels and what action you need to take if they are high. It is also important that you know for how long you need to monitor blood sugar levels. Since this is very ‘person specific’, you need to chat this through prior to the procedure.
You will not be able to drive home after the injection and it is usually a good idea if you have someone stay with you overnight, if you live alone. Driving is usually permissible after 24 hours, but it is important that if you do not feel able to drive the next day, that you simply rest until you do feel well enough to do so.
Usually a sedative will be administered, so it is important not to take any alcohol or to undertake any activities that require concentration for at least 24 hours.
Most patients who have had an epidural steroid injection for sciatica find that they need around 48 hours until they feel ready to resume normal day to day activities. However, it is also a good idea to move around at least a little, to keep the back mobile, so complete bed rest is not required and a stroll to the kitchen or walking slowly will help. Sometimes patients feel that the pain is worse in the first 48 hours after the injection, which is why it is important to take things easy, but complete bed rest will potentially aggravate any discomfort.
After 48 Hours:
Although patients do generally feel better after 48 hours, it is important not to place an undue strain on the back and it is certainly not advisable to undertake heavy lifting or anything that can actually result in the sciatic nerve becoming trapped or pinched even further, since this will undo the effect of the epidural.