Health Tips

Epidural: 3 Things to Consider Before Getting One

Are you thinking of getting an epidural shot for your back pain? This injection is usually a doctor’s next resort if regular medications or physical therapy have not worked. Though the thought of a small and easy injection to take the pain away may be tempting, there are 3 things I recommend you consider before you take the first step.

An Epidural Doesn’t Deal With the Root Problem

Epidural shots are just like medication; they do not deal with the root of the problem. In fact, they are not designed to. They are used to reduce inflammation of your nerves so that you can start Physical Therapy or an exercise program. 

The herniated/bulging disc or tight muscle, which is the root cause (90% of the time), is not resolved with the injection. Only a program that effectively strengthens your spine and core can deal with the root problem. A problem that I often see is that someone gets an epidural, the pain goes away, and they decide they don’t need to exercise and strengthen their back because they now feel normal. That couldn’t be any further from the truth. 

What is actually happening, is that the pain is still there, but the steroid is “numbing” it and reducing inflammation so that your brain doesn’t register pain. That is why you feel relief. The tight muscles are still causing your bones or disc(s) to pinch nerves. The end result is that the muscles get tighter or your herniation worsens over time. So, when the shot wears off, you are back at square one, or sometimes worse.

Side Effects From Epidurals Are a Bit Worrisome

Here are some of the possible side effects. From inserting the needle:
infection
spinal headache
bleeding
allergic reaction
nerve damage or paralysis

From the steroid:
weight gain
water retention
elevated blood sugar
lowered immune system
stomach ulcers
anxiety
sleeplessness
cataracts
increased blood pressure

While none of these side effects may occur in your case, why take the risk?

Epidural Shots Don’t Always Work

Epidural shots only work about 50% of the time. (2) And when they do work, they don’t always eliminate the pain entirely. In some cases, you may need to have multiple shots to get any relief at all. And even then, it’s not guaranteed to work. So why waste time (and money) on something that won’t attack the root cause, and might not relieve the pain either?

My Advice to You

So, you might be thinking: “Well, if you don’t believe I should get the epidural, what should I do? I need to get rid of this pain somehow…” I’m glad you asked! Here’s what I would recommend you do: look at ways of dealing with the root cause. And what is that? Weak spinal muscles that tighten up over time.
Relaxing and strengthening your spinal muscles and core will help give you long-term relief for your back pain. And our program does just that! 

In closing, let me tell you about one of our most recent members that was experiencing sciatica. She tried Physical Therapy and medications but the pain did not go away. So, the doctor recommended that the next step be an epidural shot. Luckily, she found out about our program through a nurse at the hospital she had gone to initially for her pain. 

After her 1st session, she left with very minimal sciatic pain and could walk normally. After about 5-6 sessions, her pain was completely gone. No epidural. No medications. She is one of many, that I have been able to help eliminate pain without epidural shots. Now, would an epidural shot have helped? Maybe. If it relieved some of the pain, then it would have been slightly easier to perform our exercises. But, she was able to do them easily even while in pain.

Final Thoughts

Epidural shots are not to be relied on for truly eliminating pain, but for possibly relieving some of it so that you can start an exercise program that strengthens your spinal muscles and core. But, why spend time getting one, when you can go straight to an exercise program that eliminates the pain completely?

sources: 
(1) http://www.mayfieldclinic.com/PE-ESI.htm 
(2) http://www.spine-health.com/treatment/injections/epidural-steroid-injections-risks-and-side-effects