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Epidural Injections for Herniated Discs: How Long Do They Last?


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Epidural injections can provide relief for patients who have chronic back pain or discomfort related to a herniated disc (also commonly known as a "slipped disc" or “ruptured disc”). These therapeutic injections can provide relief from physical therapy and other treatments your doctor may recommend. This article discusses how long you can expect epidural injections to last if you have a herniated disc.

Epidural Injections Reduce Inflammation

An epidural injection is placed into the space between the spine and spinal discs, and a steroid medication is used to provide relief from inflammation. The injection also washes away chemicals that worsen inflammation, which provides even more relief from nerve irritation caused by a herniated disc.

Some Patients Experience Permanent Relief

For some patients, the relief from disruptive symptoms provided by epidural injections allows enough time for physical therapy to be effective. If this is the case, you may reach a point where your discomfort from a herniated disc is completely gone.

For Chronic Disc Pain, Results Last 3–6 Months (on Average)

It is not unusual for herniated disc pain to naturally subside over time. However, for some people, herniated disc symptoms become chronic, referring to pain lasting for 3–4 months or more. In this instance, epidural injections tend to wear off after about 3–6 months. If you still have severe or disruptive symptoms at this point, you may be advised to consider surgery or get another epidural injection if you wish to avoid surgery altogether for your herniated disc.

Patients Should Know What to Expect with Epidural Injections

During the process of receiving an epidural injection, you will be resting on your stomach so the shot can be properly administered. The injection includes a local anesthetic that is administered to ease the discomfort from the injection itself. You may experience immediate relief at first from the anesthetic and then notice an increase in pain until the steroid medication takes effect. It usually takes about 20 minutes to receive an epidural injection. You may experience some discomfort around the injection site. Otherwise, the process is relatively quick and not too uncomfortable.

Physical Therapy Can Also Help

Once the injection takes full effect, make the most of your relief from disruptive symptoms and pain by actively participating in your physical therapy sessions. This is also a good time to get regular exercise to further increase the strength of supporting spinal muscles, which may ease pressure on your herniated disc.

Relying on Injections for Ongoing Relief Is Not Recommended

If you reach a point where you have had 3–4 injections over the course of a few years and you still have disruptive spinal disc pain, it may be time to consider surgery. The good news is that today's surgical options for herniated disc pain are less invasive than what was the case several years ago. A microdiscectomy may be recommended when minimally disruptive surgery for a herniated spinal disc is preferred.

If you have a herniated disc that is not responding to conservative treatment, a discectomy or microdiscectomy may be discussed and potentially recommended. Although this is generally a very successful back surgery procedure, having a large hole in the outer ring of the disc more than doubles the risk of needing another operation. A new treatment, Barricaid, is a bone-anchored device that closes this hole, and 95 percent of Barricaid patients did not undergo a reoperation due to reherniation in a 2-year study timeframe. This treatment is done immediately following the discectomy—during the same operation—and does not require any additional incisions or time in the hospital. 

If you have any questions about the Barricaid treatment, ask your doctor or contact us at 844-288-7474.

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