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Preparing for Your Spinal Injection: What to Expect

What Is A Spinal Injection and What Does It Accomplish?


Spinal injections are procedures meant to provide pain relief to the lumbar, thoracic, cervical or caudal spine. The deliver a dose of an anti-inflammatory medication called a steroid that reduces swelling or irritation of nerves that can be caused by a bulging disc or bone spur. The injection does not enter the spinal cord itself: the steroids are administered into the epidural space that is outside of the area where the spinal cord and cerebrospinal fluid is located. This provides relief from pain, numbness and tingling that is so frequently experienced with spinal conditions.


How Long Will a Spinal Injection Procedure Take?


When planning for a spinal injection you should allow about an hour from start to finish. This will give you plenty of time to arrive and meet with your physician beforehand and to discuss the procedure and complete all of the paperwork. The injection itself takes relatively little time: you will be positioned and then the injection will be administered. Afterwards you will be asked to relax and rest for a short time so that our nurses can be certain that you have recovered.


What Do I Need to Do to Prepare for the Injection?


You need to stop eating or drinking anything at all for 6 hours before the time that your procedure is scheduled. If you take medication you are generally permitted to do so with a sip of water, but you should tell the office about anything that you’re taking when you schedule your appointment.


Will the Injection Hurt?


Having a spinal injection is similar to many other types of injections. In addition to the physician, there will be a nurse and an imaging professional present in the room. We will monitor your blood pressure and blood oxygenation and position you for the injection, usually on your stomach. We will clean the area where the injection will be administered with antiseptic solution, then numb the area with a local anesthetic using a small needle. After that has taken effect we administer the injection, which you will feel as pressure on your back. We are able to provide you with additional sedation if you wish. If you choose sedation, you must have a driver with you to take you home afterwards.


What to Expect After the Injection


Most people return to work or their normal activities following the procedure, though it is advised that you don’t do anything strenuous for a few days. You may have slight soreness at the site of the injection which can be treated with ice. Though you may feel better immediately after the injection, this is not a result of the steroid – it is the effect of the local anesthetic. The steroid will not start to have an effect for a few days.


How Long Will The Spinal Injection Help?


Different people respond differently to spinal injections. Some people find that they work for several days while others get long-lasting relief. Most people have three injections in a row, every other week, with gradual improvement after each one.