We all know someone who has back pain or leg pain. Most of the time this pain is caused by a bulging, or herniated, disc in the lower spine. Sometimes this pain is merely annoying, but for some it can be debilitating.
There are lots of treatment options out there including medications, physical therapy, injections, and surgery. Most folks start conservatively with anti-inflammatory medicines, then may move to therapy and injections in an effort to eliminate (or at least postpone) the need for disc surgery.
One of the most common treatments after medications and physical therapy have failed is epidural injection. This is a relatively easy procedure where the physician injects a mixture of a local anesthetic and a steroid into the soft space just behind the bones of the spine. The medications work together to numb the area and to reduce inflammation and irritation that lead to back and leg pain.
A recent study published in Pain Physician, the official journal of the American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians, looked at the effectiveness of epidural injections for patients with back and leg pain caused by a herniated disc. The study followed 120 patients for 2 years and defined “success” when a patient experienced at least a 50% reduction in pain and disability for at least three weeks following an injection. Patients who achieved success after their first two injections continued receiving injections at appropriate intervals for the entire 24 months of the study.
After 24 months at the conclusion of the study, 71% of patients receiving injections containing both a local anesthetic and a steroid reported at least a 50% reduction in pain and disability. These patients reported an average of 69 weeks of success over the 104-week period. That means that 66% of the time they felt much better! Additionally, opioid narcotic use declined and employment increased in this group.
This study is the most recent proof that epidural injections can be a solution for those who struggle with pain from a herniated disc. If you have questions about this procedure or if it might help you, please call us and let Dr. Rubin discuss it with you.