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Explore How Herniated Disc Injections Work to Relieve Your Back Pain

xray of herniated disc causing back pain

Back pain can sneak up on you when you least expect it—if you have pain radiating through your lower back, a “slipped” a disc may be the cause of your discomfort. Herniated disc injections are a nonsurgical treatment option that can help relieve spinal nerve irritation. Discover how a spine specialist can help you alleviate your pain with this minimally invasive procedure.

What Is a Herniated Disc?

A herniated disc refers to an injury in one of the rubbery cushions that sit between the individual bones comprising your spine. This condition often results in pain, numbness, or weakness and can affect the arms or legs, depending on where the injury is.

This spinal injury is often the result of gradual wear and tear called disc degeneration. As you age, your discs become less flexible and more prone to tears or ruptures. While most people can’t pinpoint the exact cause of their herniated disc, there are two common instances in which herniated discs can result:

  • Using your back muscles instead of your leg muscles when lifting heavy objects
  • Twisting and turning while lifting

Most herniated discs occur in the lower back, but they may also occur in the neck. Your symptoms will often depend on where the injury itself is located and whether the disc is pressing on a nerve. Common symptoms include arm or leg pain, numbness, tingling, or weakened nerves.

What Are the Treatment Options for Herniated Discs?

Initial treatments for herniated discs are often conservative and may include modifying activities to avoid movements that cause pain and over-the-counter medications for relief. This method typically relieves symptoms in most people within a few days or weeks.

Your spine specialist may also recommend physical therapy to help you learn exercises designed to minimize the pain of a herniated disc. If these treatments fail to relieve your symptoms, spine surgery may be the next step. Common surgical procedures for herniated discs include discectomy and laminectomy.

However, surgery isn’t the sole next step in your healing process. An alternative treatment option that has become popular among orthopedic specialists and patients is epidural steroid injections.

What Are Epidural Injections for Herniated Discs?

When a nerve is compressed, it becomes inflamed. This can lead to numbness, pain, tingling, or weakness along the course of the nerve. An epidural steroid injection is a nonsurgical treatment that helps reduce the inflammation and pain associated with root nerve compression.

Injections are delivered to the epidural space to provide analgesics (painkillers) to the immediate site of pain. These treatments also contain steroids that inhibit the production of inflammatory substances in addition to a lidocaine or saline solution that flushes away the proteins causing swelling.

There are several types of epidural steroid injections available—the treatments are described based on where they are administered in the body. Each method requires the use of a thin needle, contrast dye, and an X-ray to help guide the medication into place. Additionally, a local anesthetic is added to the solution to provide temporary pain relief.

While injections will begin working within one to three days after the procedure, it can take up to a week for patients to experience the full effect. Your results will typically depend on the specifics of your injury, as well as how your body responds to the medication.

Although uncommon, some patients may experience side effects. These can include increased pain, anxiety, trouble sleeping, and temporary water retention. These will typically resolve within a few days following your visit.

Herniated discs are most often the result of gradual, age-related wear and tear, though overuse or misuse may cause injury. Understanding how herniated disc injections work can help you resume a pain-free lifestyle faster. New York Orthopedics offers top-level orthopedic treatment for any spine concerns you may have, all in one location. Make an appointment today with one of our NY Orthopedics locations in New York City to start your healing journey.

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