Sciatica: Can Steroid Injections Help?

The nagging pain of sciatica runs from your lower back down the back of your leg, and aside from limited mobility, such long-lasting discomfort can do a number on your emotional well-being. 

More than 80% of people experience low back pain at some point, and sciatica is a main culprit. 

Study after study has linked chronic pain to depression, and it’s easy to understand why. 

If there’s one thing the Advanced Spine and Pain team has in abundance, it’s compassion for sufferers of back pain. Dr. Brian Lee, Dr. Alfred Correa, Dr. Randy Davis, and Dr. Thomas Raley are experts in diverse treatments for sciatica. They welcome caring for you and take a highly customized approach to treatment, paying close attention to your medical history and current symptoms. 

Discs, the back’s shock absorbers

Your discs are wonderfully designed protective cushions that sit between your vertebrae and when in good working order, they do their job well. Each disc has a soft interior and strong exterior. If part of your disc pushes through that tough exterior portion, then you have a herniated, or ruptured, disc. This is a primary cause of sciatica. 

Sciatica isn’t just one kind of pain

The discomfort caused by sciatica varies quite a bit. You might notice the pain starts in your lower back and goes down the entire length of your leg, or you might just notice it from the back of your knee downward. 

Unfortunately, tingling and numbness can go along with the pain of sciatica, as can swelling and a weakening that limits your ability to engage in hobbies, social events, and everyday chores. 

When we suspect you’re suffering from sciatica, we inquire about whether pain emerges for you after being sedentary for a time, whether you experience sciatica pain that startles you, and what the intensity of your pain level is. 

Multiple successful sciatica treatments exist

Your sciatica can be exacerbated by being overweight or performing work that requires you to either sit for long periods or perform repetitive movements that are harmful to your back, such as sitting at a desk, working in the construction field, and even childcare that requires frequent lifting of babies and small children. 

Although we successfully treat some patients’ sciatica with medication, a course of physical therapy, or epidural nerve blocks that numb your pain, we also frequently see quick, dramatic relief for patients when we administer epidural steroid injections for sciatica pain, especially when other treatments have been unsuccessful. 

What makes a steroid injection a preferred sciatica treatment

Steroids are medications containing highly effective anti-inflammatory effects. When they’re targeted directly at the precise source of your sciatic pain — the irritated nerves —  they can bring your pain level down to zero, especially when combined with a local anesthetic. 

Part of the success of steroid injections is due to the fact that they calm your immune system down, so you manufacture fewer inflammatory cells. 

There are three types of steroid injections — caudal, interlaminar, and transforaminal — that are given to sciatica sufferers, and your doctor decides which one is best depending on your situation. 

If your doctor advises an epidural steroid injection to treat your sciatica, know that we do everything possible to make you comfortable, including administering local anesthetic at your injection site. 

Fortunately, getting an epidural steroid injection only takes about 15 minutes, though in severe cases, you may get more than one. We observe you for the half hour following your injection to make sure all is well, and then release you so you can return to normal activities. You may be slightly sore following your appointment, but ice treatments are quickly effective

The effects of epidural steroid injections on patients with sciatica vary in that some notice a lessening of symptoms right away, often followed by a painful couple of days. Typically you note the sciatica pain reduction two to four days following your treatment, and the best part? Relief lasts for months!

Contact the Advanced Spine and Pain office most convenient to you to inquire about all of our sciatica treatments, and if you think epidural steroid shots may be especially effective, be sure to discuss it with your doctor. Call our office to book an appointment or arrange one via our website.

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