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How Does an Epidural Work to Treat Chronic Pain?

How Does an Epidural Work to Treat Chronic Pain?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 25% of adults in the United States experienced chronic pain in 2021. More than 6% of those people had chronic pain bad enough they had to restrict their daily activities.

Patients who come to Orthocenter with chronic pain are often frustrated. Our highly trained providers offer innovative options for pain management, including techniques such as epidural injections and radiofrequency ablations. 

Your nerves and pain

Pain signals serve an important purpose—they let you know when you’ve strained a muscle and need to rest, for example. Pain signals travel along nerves from every part of your body to your brain. Your nervous system has two parts: the peripheral and central nervous systems.

Your brain and spinal cord are your central nervous system, and everything else is your peripheral nervous system. All of the nerves in your body go back to your spinal cord, which connects to your brain. This means that all pain signals travel through your spinal cord at some point. 

 

Your spinal cord runs through the center of your vertebrae. The thick bundle of nerves is encased in a spinal fluid sac. The area outside that sac, but still within your spine, is called the epidural space

Epidural injections

An epidural injection can precisely deliver medication to the epidural space. Often, when you have chronic pain, the root of the nerve in your spinal cord becomes irritated and inflamed. Epidural injections often include powerful anti-inflammatory medications to soothe the irritation and calm the inflamed nerve root. 

 

Sometimes, an epidural injection can be used to block specific nerves. Most people are familiar with this type of epidural injection because it’s often used during childbirth. It can be useful in some instances of chronic pain, as well. 

What to expect

The idea of an injection into your spine may make you feel nervous, and that’s understandable. You should know that the providers at all locations of Orthocenter are highly trained and experienced and make recommendations based on the most current research. You’re safe with us!

Getting an epidural injection is usually a quick procedure. It’s done with you either sitting, leaning forward, or lying on your side with your knees pulled up to your chest. 

 

We use a local anesthetic to numb the area first. Then, your doctor places an epidural needle and catheter into your epidural space. You might feel some tingling or a brief shooting pain, or just some pressure. You might not feel anything at all.

Once the catheter is inserted, we deliver pain medication and remove the catheter. You may have some lingering soreness or discomfort afterward, but it should disappear within a few hours.

Epidural injections don’t treat the underlying cause of your pain, but they may help ease your pain for weeks to months and allow you to do strengthening exercises, stretches, or other movements to help you get better.

If you’d like to learn more about epidural injections and determine whether they could be an appropriate treatment for your chronic pain, schedule an appointment at Orthocenter's most convenient location. Our providers are happy to answer your questions and make suggestions based on your individual situation. 

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