Epidurals are used mainly for sciatic leg or arm pain (also known as radicular pain), when simpler and more conservative measures have not helped.
The effectiveness of the treatment can vary from person to person – some may experience a significant reduction in pain lasting several months, while others might find the effects don’t last as long – and the injection is usually undertaken alongside other treatments, such as physiotherapy.
Epidural steroid injections
An epidural steroid injection involves injecting a steroid into the epidural space (the space that surrounds the spinal cord). A local anaesthetic, or a solution called ‘normal saline’, with the steroid will bathe the nerve roots that send pain signals to the brain.
Epidural injections can be given anywhere along the length of the spine, such as:
in the neck (cervical)
between the shoulder blades/back of chest (thoracic)
in the lower back (lumbar) or tailbone (caudal)
A transforaminal epidural is a similar technique, but involves an injection being made through a small space at the side of the spine, known as the intervertebral foramen.