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What is really in a spinal injection?

Often times one of the first non-operative treatment options your spinal specialist may recommend is a spinal injection. While not everyone benefits from these injections, some patients experience immediate relief and never progress to surgical interventions. There are many types of injections that can be utilized, so how does the doctor know which is best? It is only after carefully listening to the symptoms, performing a detailed physical exam, and reviewing imaging studies can the doctor recommend a specific spinal injection.

To understand how a spinal injection may help your neck or back pain, it is important to understand its composition. What makes a spinal injection? The first component is a quick, short-acting numbing medication. The second is a slower onset, but longer lasting steroid. Both are used because both serve different purposes.

Numbing Medication

The numbing medication used in a steroid injection is important to help diagnose the cause of your symptoms. For example, if placed near an irritated region, the numbing medication will cause your symptoms to improve very quickly. Unfortunately, the improvement is short-lasting. While disappointing for the patient, this is actually extremely helpful for the doctor as it helps with our ability to pin-point the problem area. The results of the injection,  in conjunction with imaging and physical exams, provide additional feedback that ultimately get you back to a pain-free life! Additionally, this information is helpful for you because the improvement gained with the numbing medication typically mimics the same benefits that are obtained with surgery.

Steroid Medication

The steroid medication provides longer-lasting relief and may help to treat your symptoms.  Steroids are powerful anti-inflammatories which work to decrease inflammation in the symptomatic area of your back or neck. Decreasing inflammation ultimately leads to decreased pain. Unfortunately there is no crystal ball to predict if, and for how long, the steroids will work. In some patients, one injection is all they need to reduce pain and in others, the steroid doesn’t last long enough for complete relief. In these instances it’s best to discuss surgical intervention.

Regardless of the outcome, an injection is a quick, minimally invasive procedure that can help you along the road to recovery! Think an injection may help your neck or back pain? Schedule an appointment with Dr. Haines today!