If you are experiencing pain due to inflammation of the nerves in the neck, then you may benefit from cervical epidural steroid injections (CESIs). Potential conditions that can cause the nerves in the cervical spine to become pinched or compressed include:
Nerve compression in the neck, commonly referred to as ‘cervical radiculitis’, can cause a number of uncomfortable symptoms, including numbness and pain that radiates down the arm. This pain is originated from cervical spinal nerves which can be become irritated as they exit the spine through small holes located on either side of the vertebrae.
This irritation can often manifest as the result of a cervical herniated disc that impinges upon the nerve root. In other cases, local inflammation may arise due to disc degeneration. Spinal stenosis is another problematic condition that can actually reduce the space in the spinal canal, putting excessive pressure on the spinal cord in the neck. This results in compression of the nerves in this space, leading to inflammation and irritation of the nerves which can cause serious symptoms, including bodily weakness and in rare cases, even paralysis.
What Does a Cervical Epidural Injection Do?
The purpose of a cervical epidural steroid injection is to help alleviate the symptoms related to nerve inflammation and pain. This type of injection can also be used for diagnostic purposes as well, in order to accurately target the source of your pain.
The treatment works by delivering steroids directly into the epidural space surrounding spinal nerve roots in the upper spine/neck region. The epidural space is located between the dura mater and the bony vertebra. The dura is the protective covering around the spinal cord and its nerves, which contains cerebrospinal fluid (the fluid that bathes the nerve roots).
An injection into the epidural space delivers medication directly to coat the nerves at the injection site. This medication is an anti-inflammatory consisting of cortisone steroid solution. The ultimate goal of this treatment is to reduce the local inflammation and effectively diminish any associated nerve pain.
What to Expect
A cervical epidural steroid injection is not a cure-all treatment, but is highly effective at providing prolonged relief from painful symptoms that may be impeding the patient from progressing with their rehabilitation program. This type of injection is typically administered in a series of up to 3 shots.
The treatment is performed using X-ray guidance (fluoroscopy) to ensure proper placement of the needle into the cervical epidural space.
The cervical epidural injection is usually injected as a mixture of cortisone with a local anesthetic. The anesthetic provides the patient with near immediate relief from painful symptoms, whereas the cortisone allows for more gradual and longer-lasting pain relief. The cortisone can take several days to begin providing pain relief. Therefore, there may be a period of time after the anesthetic wears off that your pain will return as it was before the procedure. In general, relief from CESIs is usually experienced within 2 – 3 days after treatment. However, each patient is different and some may experience improvement sooner.
The duration of symptom relief that a patient experiences from a cervical epidural steroid injection also varies. A single injection may provide relief for a matter of days up to several months. Some patients may actually experience permanent relief. For others, follow-up injections can be performed to sustain the effect, or an alternative treatment may be necessary.
Schedule an Appointment at the Diagnostic Pain Center in Austin
If you are experiencing chronic neck pain, or other unpleasant symptoms, such as numbness, tingling, or pain in the arms and hands, then you may benefit from cervical epidural steroid injections. Call 512-981-7246 to schedule a consultation with an Austin neck and back pain specialist, Dr. Robert S. Marks or Dr. Sauman A. Rafii.