Injections provide temporary relief from back pain when other attempts at pain management such as heat therapy and physical therapy exercises aren’t successful. They work by delivering a local anesthetic and some type of anti-inflammatory medication directly to the affected part of the spine for either diagnostic or therapeutic purposes. Regardless of why injections are recommended, your experience with this treatment will depend on several factors.
Results Tend to Fade Over Time
A study on disc injections found that the treatment provided continued relief for most patients for about a month after receiving an injection. However, subjects returned to their original level of pain a year after their injections. Researchers concluded that the benefits of disc injections for chronic pain management are “questionable” since relief isn’t long-term. However, the results seen with injections may depend on:
- The actual source of your back pain (injections are only effective when delivered at the source point, not where pain is felt)
- Whether or not additional or underlying spine conditions are involved
- The specific medications used
- If the injection is placed in the right location
- Participation in follow-up rehab or therapy after injections
Injections for Low Back Pain and Sciatica
Epidural steroid injections may not provide meaningful short-term relief and no long-term pain relief at all, according to a study involving such injections used on patients with low back pain and sciatica. However, the study did not include the use of special X-ray guidance (fluoroscopy) to achieve better placement. Most of the studies involving injection therapy also don’t classify patients based on the specific cause of their pain. There are clinical trials that suggest better results are seen with transforaminal epidural steroid injections (spinal nerve block injections).
Getting More Benefits from Injections
The results of the study on the effectiveness of injections don’t apply to every patient’s experience with this treatment. While some people may only have temporary relief, others enjoy long-term relief by combining injections with other treatments or therapies. For instance, the relief experienced from an injection can make it easier to fully participate in physical therapy routines without pain. Being able to strengthen muscles that support the spine may reduce occurrences of back pain even after the effects of the injections wear off. During periods of relief, you can:
- Explore additional treatment options
- Get more exercise (even gentler forms of exercise like water aerobics can increase flexibility)
- Try chiropractic manipulations and similar manual therapies that reduce dependence on medications
There are several different types of injections that may provide relief for your back pain. Epidural steroid injections are the most common types of pain-relieving injections, although you may also see positive results from selective nerve root blocks and facet joint or sacroiliac joint blocks. A2M (alpha-2 macroglobulin) injections may help with back pain aggravated by arthritis. Your odds of experiencing meaningful relief will depend on how well your condition was diagnosed and the specific type of injection administered by a spine surgeon. Santa Monica patients can trust in Dr. Hyun Bae at The Spine Institute for reliable treatment options.
At The Spine Institute Center for Spinal Restoration, we specialize in various types of minimally invasive spine surgery. Santa Monica residents should call 310-828-7757 today to schedule an in-person evaluation and take the first steps toward living a pain-free life.