What is an epidural?
An epidural is a strong anti-inflammatory medication that is administered in the space surrounding the spinal cord. This is called the epidural space. This injection temporarily relieves inflammation or pain in the spine or limbs. The injection can help confirm the exact site of the pain generator.
Why would you do it?
This type of treatment is often used to treat short-term sciatica, however it doesn’t help non-sciatic back pain. Patients who have sciatica due to a slipped lumbar disc may feel a temporary improvement thanks to these injections but it won’t treat the cause.
What does it involve?
The doctor must first establish the location that the injection should be administered, then disinfect and sterilise the skin with an antiseptic. An anaesthetic will then be injected which will relax the area before the epidural injection. Once the area is completely relaxed, the specialist will use a visual aid to identify the epidural space correctly, then they will administer the epidural, which is made up of cortisone or steroids.
How to prepare for it
In a lot of cases an epidural is performed without the need for medical admission. However, in some cases it may be necessary, the specialist carrying out the treatment will decide. They will also suggest some post-treatment care such as not to eat or drink anything in the hours following the injection, to wear a loose gown, and to go the toilet before the procedure. It is advisable to be accompanied by a family member or friend in order to ensure getting home safely.
Some people may experience tingling in the arms and legs, depending on the injection site, after the procedure. If you have a sharp pain you should see a medical specialist. Some people have some difficulty walking unaided or getting in and out of the car, this normally subsides over time. The effects of the epidural can last months, weeks, and sometimes days.