Sciatica: Treatment With Epidural Steroids

Sciatica: Treatment With Epidural Steroids

Sciatica is a very painful condition that generally results from a nerve being pinched or even trapped in the lower back. Sciatica can often be treated with physiotherapy, the patient undertaking exercises or analgesics etc.

However, sciatica is notoriously resistant to some of these techniques and they may simply not alleviate the condition. In this case, epidural steroids may be suggested as being the most effective treatment.

What Is An Epidural Steroid?

The term epidural is sometimes commonly (but mistakenly) referred to as being associated with childbirth however this is in fact an epidural anaesthetic. An epidural simply refers to any injection that is given in the epidural region of the spine. In this case, the injection given in the epidural area contains steroids, hence the term epidural steroids.

What Does An Epidural Steroid Injection Do?

The injection introduces steroids into the epidural area, sometimes a local anaesthetic or even other medication may also be administered. In effect the steroids will act in such a way that they inhibit the immune system and this has the causal effect of actively reducing inflammatory pain. It also directly ‘hits’ the area or locality that is generating the pain, so it can significantly reduce pain levels experienced by the patient.

Is It A Single Treatment?

Patients may experience pain relief after 1 injection, but it is often the case that the pain will return after some time, at which point another injection can be given.

Generally patients will not be given more than 3 injections in a year, but patients may also find that the sciatica is better after this length of time anyway, since it can simply ‘clear up’.

Do Epidural Steroid Injections Mean Physiotherapy Can Be Stopped?

On the contrary, epidural steroid injections may effectively mean that physiotherapy can be even more intensive, because the patient will be potentially more mobile, have less pain and will be able to stretch and do more exercises than prior to the injection.

Although some patients are fearful that the physiotherapy will be too much for them patients should bear in mind that their pain levels should not be as high as before the procedure and they will indeed be able to undertake the exercises without undue physical discomfort.

Are Epidural Steroids A New Treatment?

No, epidural steroids have been in use since the early 1950’s and it is in no way a new form of treating sciatica, since many patients have undergone the treatment and found it successful. It is usually helpful for at least 50% or more of patients who receive the injection.

Are There Any Risks Associated With The Procedure?

There are only very minor risks that may result from an epidural steroid injection, but these will be fully explained to you in detail prior to it being undertaken. As a general rule it is extremely safe, with the most common side effect being reported as a headache that may be lengthy in terms of duration. However, patients should have little concern about receiving an epidural steroid injection.

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