Placed directly into the affected area of the spine, epidural steroid injections (ESIs) are often used to manage lower back or radiating nerve pain. In use since the 1950s, epidural injections are generally considered safe and effective for most patients. However, there are still potential risks and side effects you should be aware of before turning to ESIs for relief.
While rare, some patients experience a temporary numbness that affects the bladder or bowels. This risk is associated with lumbar epidural injections, including those used to treat SI (sacroiliac joint) inflammation.
Occurring with less than a fraction of a percentage of all epidural injections, infections can develop around the site of the shot. Epidural abscesses may form as a result of an infection. The source of the infection isn’t always found.
Dural Puncture (Wet Tap)
Experienced with a half a percent of all injections, dural (spinal sac) punctures may cause what’s referred to as a “spinal headache.” If the headache doesn’t go away, blood may be injected into the arm vein to induce clotting around the sac (blood patch).
Bleeding and Nerve Damage
Some initial bleeding from the injection may occur, but it’s also rare. Bleeding is more likely to happen in patients with underlying conditions that increase bleeding. Sometimes related to bleeding or infection, nerve damage is another rare risk.
Extremely Rare Side Effects
Some side effects are rare enough that occurrence is highly unlikely for most patients. These risks include:
- An increase in pain around the injection site
- Difficulty sleeping or increased anxiety
- Higher blood sugar levels
- Decreased immune system protection
- Arthritis of the hip
- Temporary headaches or fever
Epidural injections won’t treat the underlying cause of pain. What ESIs can do is make it easier for you to get regular exercise and participate in physical therapy to strengthen your muscles and joints. If you do have side effects from the injections, you may experience relief with remedies such as heat or cold therapy. Severe pain may result in the need for spine surgery. Los Angeles patients can rely on Dr. Bae at The Spine Institute Center to help them manage their pain, whether it’s with the help of injections or minimally invasive surgery. Call our office today at 310-828-7757 to schedule an appointment.