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Are Cervical Epidural Steroid Injections Right For My Neck Pain?

By: Annette Lukose, MD

While most people experience temporary neck or back pain at some point in their lives, there are many chronic conditions that can cause this pain to linger or exacerbate over time. Depending on the condition and pain level, treatments can range from conservative methods (such as physical therapy and medication) to surgery.

A cervical epidural steroid injection is an interventional pain management procedure that treats chronic neck and upper spine pain that’s related to spinal conditions such as herniated discs, spinal stenosis, nerve root compression, degenerative disc disease and cervical radiculopathy. By delivering medicine directly at the site of the problem, this targeted procedure can help reduce inflammation. These types of spinal injections can be a good option for patients who do not experience pain relief from conservative treatments. However, if patients have severe structural damage to the cervical spine (such as advanced degenerative disc disease or extensive spinal stenosis), they may not respond well to injections and may need surgery.

Recent clinical studies have shown that 50-80% of patients report significant pain relief after a cervical epidural injection, with the relief lasting from a few weeks to several months. The efficacy depends on the specific diagnosis, condition severity, past treatments and general health of the patient. Subsequent injections can be given in the right cases to extend pain relief.

Epidural steroid injections are generally administered by pain management specialists who offer non-surgical treatment options for orthopedic pain. As interventional pain physicians, we are trained in the diagnosis and treatment of pain conditions through specialized residency and fellowship programs. This extensive education and training combined with clinical experience allows us to perform these complex procedures with the highest precision.

If you are experiencing chronic neck pain, an MRI can help clarify the pathology of the pain which might stem from a compression of the spinal canal or cervical nerve roots. In cases where the cause is unknown, the epidural injection can even help diagnose the source of neck pain if the pain disappears after the injection.

While the injection itself only takes about 15-30 minutes, the entire visit may last about 1-2 hours including preparation and post-procedure observation. The injection site is numbed with a local anesthetic to minimize discomfort during the procedure itself. The procedure is generally well-tolerated, with some patients only feeling light pressure or mild discomfort. Normal activities can typically resume the following day.

This procedure is typically performed in an office setting under X-ray guidance or at an outpatient surgical center. Here at OAM, I administer these procedures in our state-of-the-art pain management suite that is equipped with advanced C-arm imaging.

I am deeply passionate about utilizing interventional pain techniques, as I believe they hold the potential to be genuine game changers for certain patients and conditions.