How Long Do Epidural Injections Last For Back Pain?

Exact Answer: 1 week to 1 year

An epidural injection is a medication that is used to treat pain in the back. The space around the spinal cord is called the epidural space. Hence, this injection is one such method to treat pain or inflammation around the spinal cord. These injections provide temporary or long-lasting relief from the pain.

These also work well in order to give relief from the pain in the arms and legs. It is extremely beneficial for patients suffering from acute pain. It is widely used in pregnancy during labor when the woman is suffering unbearable pain.

How Long Do Epidural Injections Last For Back Pain

How Long Do Epidural Injections Last For Back Pain?

Epidural injections are called Epidural steroid injections or ESI. The name itself suggests that it contains steroids, anesthetics, and anti-inflammatory agents. The steroids present are mostly corticosteroids.

It is really difficult to say how long will the effect of epidural lasts. The steroids present in the solution start working in between 2 to 7 days and its effects can last for a few days or a year. The immediate pain relief is due to the anesthetics present in the solution. It is not lasting and wears off in just a few hours. After that steroids come into play.

Epidural can be used for various procedures such as:-

  1. Labour and childbirth.
  2. Surgery
  3. After surgery.

An epidural injection is delivered directly to the spine in the epidural space, steroids act as anti-inflammatory agents and reduce inflammation in the lower back which ultimately gives relief from the pain. An important steroid called Bupivacaine is known to have more long-lasting effects.

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The drawback of the epidural injection is that it provides short-term or no relief at all. These injections have to be repeated after a few weeks or months to receive maximum benefits. This is to note that this procedure comes with an entire set of side effects such as weakness, nausea, shivering, itching, and headache. 

The following table shows how long the different epidurals last –

Type Of EpiduralDuration
Transforaminal epidural steroid injectionSeveral months
Caudal epidural steroid injection 3-6 months
 Interlaminar epidural steroid injection 2-7 days

Why Do Epidural Last For This Long?

An epidural injection works by injecting it into the epidural space around the spine. The epidural space is filled with a fluid called the Cerebrospinal Fluid which surrounds the spinal cord. Spinal cod basically is a joining point between the nerves of the brain and the body. Whenever a part of the body gets hurt or is inflamed, the spinal cord sends the signals to the brain. What the epidural does is, block the spinal signals of pain by numbing the spinal nerves. Hence, one can get comfort from pain.

However, this relief from pain is short-lived. This process does not provide permanent relief from pain. The following factor determines the longevity of the injection –

  1. Concentration of the drug
  2. Type of anesthetic drug
  3. Dosage of the drug.

As soon as the steroids get depleted, the effect of epidural starts to wear off, and once again the sensations of pain can be felt.

Conclusion

Epidural is used to give relief from pain to a number of patients undergoing labor or any kind of surgery. It is basically a solution containing some steroids, anesthetics, and anti-inflammatory agents. This blocks the pain signals from going to the brain and hence gives relief from pain. This effect is not permanent. An epidural can be administered at any part of the spine, but mostly the lumbar spine is preferred.

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There are many side effects of using an epidural. Some of them are itching, drop in blood pressure, nausea, vomiting, fever, trouble in breathing, and more. According to research, it is found that around 14 percent of women have experienced a decrease in blood pressure after an epidural. That is why Epidurals are given by a specialist doctor called an anesthetist so that all the complications are kept in check beforehand.

References

  1. https://europepmc.org/article/med/8067559
  2. https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/nejm197509042931001