An epidural is used to treat inflammation of a herniated disc by an injection of the steroid cortisone into the spine. Although your body creates cortisone naturally, the chemical in the injection is synthetically produced and its effects last for a number of days rather than minutes. Another difference is that while natural cortisone arrives through the bloodstream, the synthetic chemical enters directly to the inflamed area.
The above distinctions account for several risks associated with epidural herniated disc treatment as well as a number of side effects. Before deciding if epidural herniated disc injections would be appropriate for you, it is important to understand the dangers involved and possible negative outcomes.
Risks of Epidural Herniated Disc Shots
- Dural puncture — Also called wet tap, dural puncture occurs with 0.5 percent of epidural herniated disc injections, reports Spine Health. In some cases, this leads to a post-dural headache, or a spinal headache, that can last for several days. It is sometimes necessary to use a blood patch to alleviate discomfort, a procedure that involves taking a small amount of blood from an arm vein of the patient and immediately injecting the blood into the epidural area. The blood then clots in the spinal sac to stop the leak.
- Infection — Severe infections occur in 0.1 percent and 0.01 percent of cases, reports Spine Health.
- Bleeding — This rare complication typically occurs in patients who already suffer from bleeding disorders.
- Nerve damage — Direct trauma from the needle or as a side effect from an infection or bleeding, nerve damage is extremely rare.
You are at higher risk of the above if any of the following apply:
- You suffer from uncontrolled diabetes or blood pressure.
- You are taking blood-thinning drugs or have a bleeding disorder.
- You are allergic to steroids, anaesthetics, or contrast dye.
- You have an active infection.
- You have unstable angina or congestive heart failure.
In these cases, experts strongly suggest avoiding epidural herniated disc injections.
Potential Side Effects
There are also several potential side effects of epidural shots including:
- An increase in localized pain
- Headaches for the first 24 hours
- Facial flushing
- Fever on the night after the epidural
- High blood sugar
- A short term decrease in immunity
- Stomach ulcers
- Arthritis of the hips
The Alternative: Functional Disc Rehydration
Luckily, there is an alternative to the intrusive procedure of epidural herniated disc injections — Functional Disc Rehydration. This entirely non-invasive method uses neither surgery nor drugs but instead works by reversing the disc degeneration to reduce pain and put discs back into a healthy state. The treatment has already seen success with tens of thousands of patients.
A herniated disc means that the spine is dehydrated. Functional disc rehydration, as the name suggests, replenishes fluids in the discs instead of simply targeting the pain. By taking the treatment in conjunction with physical therapy, you will be able to strengthen and stabilize your spin with none of the risks or side effects of epidural injections.