Back pain can be terrible, and effect people so much that it changes how they live their lives. Many of these people have gone to their doctors for their back pain and tried several things to relieve it, such as physical therapy, chiropractic therapy, or pain pills. But when those options no longer work, they are desperate enough to turn to a more invasive treatment like epidural shots into their spines, without even realizing the side effects and potential risks involved.
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An epidural steroid injection is a shot of cortisone used to treat inflammation around the spine where it is injected. But its usefulness is often debated and in doubt. For one, it is estimated that they help relieve the patient's pain only about 50% of the time; the success rate varies depending on the cause of the back pain and how severe the condition is. Two, they tend to only relieve the symptoms of back pain for a short period of time; from about a year at most to potentially only one week! Because of this, there is a lot of skepticism about the effectiveness of the injections and if it is even appropriate to inject some patients.
There are several side effects associated with receiving Epidural shots. They range from minor annoyances to potentially dangerous problems. These side effects include:
- Facial Flushing
- High Blood Pressure
- Increase In Back Pain
- Severe Hip Arthritis
- Stomach Ulcers
In addition to the side effects mentioned above, there are also several major risks associated with Epidural injections. There is risk in any invasive procedure, and with epidurals the potential risk is sometimes even more dangerous because the spine is such a sensitive area, and even the smallest mistake can cause major problems. Some of the risk factors with Epidural Shots include:
- Bleeding, which although rare can be a problem with patients with bleeding disorders.
- A Dural Puncture, or sometimes called a "wet tap", is a headache that most likely occurs within the first three days after a lumbar puncture. It can cause auditory changes such as tinnitus, photophobia, and visual changes, and in some rare cases a blood patch may be needed to alleviate the headache.
- Infections, although also rare, have been known to occur. There have been outbreaks of meningitis across the United States caused by steroid injections.
- Nerve damage, which can occur from bleeding, infection, or by direct trauma caused by the needle.
- Temporary numbness of the bladder and bowels.
Before deciding to get an epidural injection, it is very important to weigh all the potential risks and benefits of doing so. Are the risks really worth the short term relief?
The Illinois Back Institute is dedicated to educating people, because we know that the more that you understand about your problem, the more likely you are to eliminate it.
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