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Q: Do Epidural Steroid Injections Just Mask the Pain of a Herniated Disc?

  • Category: Doctor Q&A
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: NSPC Team

Answer: This is a great question and due to complexity of the human spine, it comes with a complicated answer. Spinal discs, joints, and nerves are common sources of pain. Over time, wear and tear can lead to disc herniations, nerve compression, and even worse, degenerative diseases where complete pain resolution is almost impossible.

Pain and numbness may be confined to the neck or back or radiate into the arms or legs. However, what most patients do not realize is that beyond mechanical pressure, inflammation may be even important aspect that is leading to pain.

Avoid the Operating Table

The good news is that most herniated discs can be treated without surgical intervention…

  • Physical therapy and an exercise regimen to help strengthen your core and stabilize the muscle of the back (when treating low back and leg pain)
  • Strengthen your shoulder stabilizers and realign your posture (when treating neck and arm pain) is the most conservative place to start
  • In many situations, however, pain severity may restrict the ability to exercise and thus requires a more aggressive form of treatment

How Epidural Steroid Injections Work

Epidural steroid injections can be an important part of your treatment plan. The epidural space surrounds your nerves and discs. Injecting steroids, which are potent anti-inflammatory medications, directly into this space can precisely target the source of inflammation.

Much like a topical steroid removes irritation and redness from a skin rash, the injected steroid decreases the inflammation and swelling around the nerves and discs, thus relieving pain and pressure. This is typically enough to ease the pain to the point that will then allow you to engage in the exercise that will help you on your road to full recovery.

So Do Epidural Steroid Injections Just Mask Pain?

The ultimate answer is “No”. Steroid injections can decrease the inflammation around the discs and nerves, which in turn alleviates pain enough to allow the return of more regular exercise and activity.

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