Injections for back pain are generally meant to relieve inflammation or compressed nerves, thereby reducing related discomfort and allowing movement without pain. Patients receive one of three types of injections for back pain: epidural, nerve block or discography. In order to be effective, injections need to be administered in the area where the pain originates. There are, however, certain possible side effects some patients may experience.
Minor Side Effects
Some patients may experience a rash or similar reaction to the numbing medicine or anesthetic that’s used to ease the pain of the injection. The same is true with injections of a contrast dye used to determine the specific disc causing the pain. A common side effect is mild numbness at the injection location that normally goes away within a few hours. Some patients can also experience headaches, nausea and vomiting shortly after receiving an injection
Potential Severe Reactions
While considered rare, bleeding may occur at the injection site. A post-dural puncture may occur around the spinal sac, sometimes resulting in a headache that lasts for a few days. The remedy is to take a small amount of blood from any vein (called a “blood patch”) and inject it into the epidural space, causing a clot that will stop the leak. Additional side effects, most considered extremely rare, may include:
- Facial flushing
- Stomach ulcers
- Trouble sleeping
- Arthritis (in the hips)
- Fever (usually the night of the injection)
- Increased blood sugar
- A decrease in immunity (associated with steroid injections)
Considerations for Patients
Those considering a spinal injection to minimize back pain can take comfort in knowing that severe infections are rare (occurring with only 0.01% to 0.1% of injections). If, however, any side effects, even those considered common, persist, it’s best to inform your doctor. The solution is usually to stop the injections all together, switch to another type of injection, or try another treatment method.
Other treatment methods include medications and physical therapy and surgical procedures. With today’s advancements in technology, minimally invasive back surgeries are now options for patients who are looking to preserve as much spinal range of motion as possible. These types of procedures have also proven to be safe, more efficient and easy to recover from than traditional surgical treatments for back pain.
To learn more about your options for treating your back pain, reach out to Medical Director Dr. Hyun Bae and his team of experienced and professional spine surgeons in Beverly Hills at (310) 828-7757 and schedule an in-person consultation.