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What Is Lumbar Epidural Injection?

A lumbar epidural injection, which contains a numbing medicine and a steroid, won’t stop all low back and leg pain. But it can reduce pain and break the pain cycle. This cycle may begin when back pain makes it hard to move. Lack of movement can then slow down the healing process. By getting you back on your feet, the injection can help speed your recovery. Some people may feel more relief from an injection than others. And some people may need more than 1 injection to get relief. Usually, no more than 3 injections are done in a 12-month period. If the first injection didn't help, it's less likely that another one will help.

A tool for diagnosis

An injection can help locate the source of pain. Also called a selective nerve block or a selective epidural, it numbs the roots of specific nerves. The effect lasts only briefly. But if you feel relief, it may indicate the source of the pain. If you feel no relief, it may mean that the pain’s source is at another level in your spine. Or it may mean that something other than inflammation is causing the pain. Injection results also may be used to help plan back surgery, if needed.

Possible risks and complications

Here are some risks of lumbar epidural injections:

  • Spinal headache. This is a severe headache that gets worse when standing or sitting upright.

  • Bleeding (rare)

  • Infection (rare)

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