Fortunately, it is very rare to need to see a specialist for back pain as most episodes are self-limiting. If you do find you're struggling, however, it's worth making an appointment with your GP who may prescribe some simple painkillers alongside a course of physiotherapy. We’ve asked pain management specialist Dr Giancarlo Camilleri to explain when an epidural is needed and if it is a good choice for treating back pain.
When would I see a doctor about back pain?
There are a couple of circumstances where you do want to consider seeing a specialist. This is if your back pain has associated features, such as a background history of weight loss, pain going down into one or both legs, night sweats or fevers. These situations may suggest that your back pain has a more serious cause but these are very rare indeed.
Epidural: what are the pros and cons?
The use of epidurals for the management of back pain is a bit of an old-fashioned approach to managing an individual's back pain. There are newer types of injections which can be useful and these are supported in the latest back pain guidelines.
The general pros for using injections is that they can be enough to break the cycle of pain for an individual to allow them to participate in physical therapies.
There are few negatives to having an epidural as injections are very safe to perform. The big issue, however, is that it may shift an individual's approach to managing their pain from a physical therapies-based approach, to becoming reliant on the use of these injections to control their pain.
When is an epidural needed and what can I expect?
The use of epidurals for back pain is an outdated approach. These are largely being superseded by other injection types to try and help an individual who is really struggling to manage their condition.
Epidurals are used successfully to help patients with severe sciatica. Their use is primarily to avoid the need for surgery if that pain can be controlled.
In terms of what to expect with an epidural, it is a minimally-invasive procedure with little or no discomfort during the act of the procedure itself.
Individuals are often required to stay in a hospital for a few hours and then can go home with little interruption in their daily activities.
Do not hesitate to book an appointment with Dr Camilleri if you’re in need of chronic pain relief.