Why is an Epidural Steroid Injection so SCARY?

Orthopaedic & Spine Center

Epidural InjectionAs an employee of OSC AND a patient who has had multiple epidural steroid injections, I can sympathize with patients who are scared silly when they are told that they need Epidural. “What? You are going to stick a needle into my back? Near my SPINE? No way!!!” I think fear of the unknown is perfectly natural and a very human way to react. However, I want to reassure you that having an Epidural Steroid Injection is not something to fear. It is a treatment that can provide great relief for your pain. If you have been told you need an ESI and are feeling afraid and anxious, let me hold your hand and walk you through the procedure.

Before we start, I would like to let you know that I do not like to get injections and often feel faint upon getting them. I am not a superhero, macho-type person that laughs in the face of going to the doctor. I have normal fears, just like you. However, I have had 8 of these Epidural injections and have lived to tell you about them. So, hear me out!

When your ESI is scheduled, you will be told to stop taking anti-inflammatory medications and blood thinners for 10 days before your injection. This is for your safety because your physician does not want there to be any risk of bleeding during your injection. Please follow these instructions.

When you arrive at OSC for your Epidural, you will check in and sign some paperwork. The helpful nurse will come and take you to a procedure room where you will be asked to change into an exam gown. You will be asked to lie face-down on a cushioned table. For those having a cervical or neck ESI, there is an elevated portion for your upper body so that your head and neck are comfortable, somewhat like a massage table. For those patients having a lumber ESI, the patient will lie on a pillow. The Physician’s Assistant or nurses will make sure that you are in a comfortable position and that you are not too hot or cold. They want you to feel comfortable and relaxed during your procedure. If you feel anxious, please speak up. They will do everything possible to make you feel more at ease.

The nurse will clean your skin near the injection site. The physician will come into the room and talk to you and let you know exactly what is going on during the procedure. Your physician will give you a shot to numb the injection area. This does sting, but it is really like any other shot of numbing medication like you would get at the dentist, and it is over quickly. Then the doctor will inject some dye into the area of your spine that is bothering you to pinpoint where the steroid should go. Fluoroscopy or live x-ray is used throughout the procedure so that the physician always knows exactly where the needle is and where the medication is being placed. When the needle is in exactly the right spot, steroid medication will slowly be injected. At this point, most patients usually feel some pressure. I felt pressure, not pain. They put a Band-Aid on the injection site and then you are done.

The entire process takes about 10-15 minutes total. The physician and nurses watch you carefully to make sure you don’t feel dizzy when you sit up. I usually felt dizzy, but that was normal for me after most shots, not just epidurals. My husband had two epidurals recently and he said he barely felt anything at all. When you are ready, you can get dressed and have a drink of water. You then go and sit in the waiting room and they monitor you for about 20 minutes before they release you to go home. You must have someone drive you, just in case you do get dizzy or feel faint.

That is the extent of the procedure. Is it something I would want to do every day? No. However, was it the end of the world? Obviously not. That is the good news!

by Shannon Woods