Wondering how effective an epidural injection for sciatica would be if the injection were NOT administered directly into the problematic disc?
Well, this is a fair question for the layperson with sciatica, but the answer is very interesting:
“Epidural injections are not injected into the disc — they are injected into the epidural space,” says Dr. Michael Perry, MD, member of the North American Spine Society and American College of Sports Medicine.
“The purpose of an epidural injection is typically to diminish inflammation around the nerve root that can cause inflammation to recede,” he says.
“Patients who have sciatica can have inflammation of the nerve. The best route for treatment is through the use of a steroid.
“The steroid can be injected to the inflamed area and this can diminish the inflammation and therefore the pain the patient is experiencing. Steroids are not injected in the disc as a form of treatment.”
What Exactly Is Sciatica?
Sciatica is the name for an irritation to the sciatic nerve — an irritation that can have more than one cause.
It results in symptoms of pain, tingling, numbness and/or weakness to the areas that the large sciatic nerve innervates.
These regions of symptoms extend from the buttocks to the foot.
A classic sign of sciatica is that it affects only one side of the body, and the pain can be sudden and “shoot” down the leg.
The sciatic nerve, as mentioned, is irritated — it is compressed, the so-called pinched nerve.
Conservative treatments, in addition to the epidural injection, usually are all that the patient needs to resolve the problem. Surgery is rarely indicated.
Epidural injections are also called steroid injections, but the “steroid” is actually a corticosteroid drug, NOT the type of steroid that bodybuilders and other athletes take.
The objective is to suppress the inflammation that surrounds the irritated root of the sciatic nerve. These injections last about three months.
An irritated disc root doesn’t always involve the sciatic nerve.
The point of compression can be a little above or below. Epidural injections are frequently used for these cases as well.
Dr. Perry is chief medical director and co-founder of USA Spine Care & Orthopedics, and is frequently sought out for his minimally invasive spine surgery expertise.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.