Healing sciatica may take different paths in life. Some people can overcome a mild form of sciatica with a few lifestyle changes, some basic exercises and a bit of rest. Those with more severe forms may need to take some painkillers to ameliorate the pains or perhaps some injections. In more severe cases, an epidural for sciatica might be the best option to overcome this issue.
Epidural steroid injections represent a common solution for all sorts of back-related pains and sciatica makes no exception either. They are also recommended for leg pains and have been used for decades – in fact, they are considered some of the most effective nonsurgical solutions out there. Now, what do these injections imply and when can you benefit from them?
Epidural for sciatica treatment
There are more reasons wherefore an epidural for sciatica might be the best treatment choice. Most importantly, it will reduce the pain and discomfort. This is the main reason wherefore people end up seeing doctors. Reducing pain is not a solution for sciatica, but for its symptoms. There are other things to do to overcome the affection, but dealing with the pain is the most problematic part.
Apart from controlling pain, the epidural will also contribute to the treatment by reducing the inflammation around the nerve roots. As a direct result, the patient will experience better mobility and function. Finally, the patient can also make some progress with the physical therapy required to overcome sciatica. When there is no pain involved, the rehabilitation program becomes a breeze.
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The epidural for sciatica is not always the first recommendation. Most doctors will recommend various nonsurgical solutions first. Medications will also help against mild and moderate pains, not to mention physical therapy. However, the epidural is not the last resort – the most severe cases can only be healed with surgery.
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Benefits of an epidural for sciatica
There are more benefits associated with an epidural injection. The bad news is they may not always be effective. Also, when effective, the pain relief is not permanent. Instead, its role is to clear it out in order to go on with other treatments, such as physical therapy. Plus, pain relief will also help the patient get back to daily activities.
Reducing the pain and inflammation is by far the main benefit of an epidural. Steroids will handle the production of inflammatory chemicals, meaning the pain signals are reduced and the inflammation annihilated. Furthermore, the epidural will reduce the necessity of oral medication, which might have all kinds of side effects in the long run.
An effective epidural injection is suitable to those who cannot go on with the physical therapy due to the painful sensations. You can go on with the rehabilitation program and tackle sciatica in a more natural manner. Last, but not least, no matter how severe the affection is, the epidural will allow you to postpone surgery and even eliminate it from your plans if other treatments are effective.
Risks associated with epidural for sciatica
Just like any other procedure, the epidural for sciatica may come with a few risks as well. Generally speaking, they are considered extremely safe and complications are less likely to occur. You can, however, experience nausea, dizziness, fainting sensations, headaches or flushing. On the same note, the injection site may also become sore for a few days – perfectly normal though.
Such side effects may last for a few minutes to a few hours. More serious complications include spinal cord damage or even dural puncture. Again, these issues are extremely rare. If you perform the procedure in a clinical facility, an experienced doctor will make sure such issues will not arise. Sometimes, these risks depend on your overall state of health too – discuss everything with the doctor upfront.
How the procedure is taken
The epidural for sciatica is not the type of procedure you can have at home. It is not the type of treatment that you can handle without a doctor’s supervision. Instead, a trained technician will have to do it and only in a clinical facility. You will need to make an appointment and follow the doctor’s instructions on how to get ready for it – requirements are quite basic though.
While the epidural involves a single injection only, the truth is you are likely to get two injections. First, you will get a local anesthetic. You will feel this injection, but it is mild and less likely to cause any major discomfort. Once the area goes numb, you will get the actual epidural injection. The needle is longer and thicker than a typical needle for injections, hence the necessity of a local anesthetic.
While the anesthetic can be given by a nurse, the epidural injection is given by a specialist doctor. You will practically have to get in touch with a spine and pain management expert – radiologists, spine surgeons, neurologists or anesthesiologists. The procedure takes minutes only and sometimes, you can go home straight away – you may need someone with you to help you.
Other than that, the epidural can go in three different directions and choosing the right one depends on the expert you see. Some doctors recommend the transforaminal route, which means the injection goes near the nerve. The interlaminar route goes in from the back of the spine, while the caudal route means the injection does not go straight to the pain, but to the epidural space around it.
As a short final conclusion, the epidural for sciatica is less likely to be a primary choice for people who see doctors to manage sciatica. Most commonly, there are natural and less invasive procedures out there. Even if the pain is moderate, painkillers will most likely help against it.
The epidural injection is mostly aimed at those with more severe forms of sciatica. When pains prevent you from moving or taking a natural approach to heal it, the epidural injection will reduce it, so you can go back on track and heal it from a different direction.
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