Treating Neck and Shoulder Pain with Cervical Steroid Injections
Cervical steroid injections (also called cervical epidural steroid injections) are a common pain management treatment for neck, shoulder, and arm pain. The injection helps reduce inflammation and the resulting pain associated with nerve root compression caused by a pinched nerve or inflamed nerves in the cervical spine (neck region).
A pinched nerve (cervical radiculopathy) occurs when a nerve in the neck is compressed or irritated. Nerve roots that become compressed in the cervical spine are often the result of a herniated disc, spinal stenosis, or arthritis. When a nerve is compressed, it becomes inflamed, leading to pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness along the nerve.
Treatment with an epidural steroid injection can help lessen the nerve root’s inflammation and ease the pain. The space surrounding the spinal cord and nerve roots is called the epidural space (epidural means “around the spinal cord”). The epidural space is a fat-filled “sleeve” that provides cushioning for the nerves and spinal cord.
What is a Cervical Steroid Injection Treatment?
A cervical steroid injection is an injection of a steroid medicine (also called a corticosteroid) and usually an anesthetic medicine. Corticosteroids act as an anti-inflammatory agent, reducing swelling and nerve irritation.
The injection of this “pain medicine” is into the epidural space of the spine’s neck area, directly over a compressed nerve root. Together, the medicine spreads throughout the cervical epidural space to provide relief to compressed nerve roots in the neck by reducing swelling in and around the spinal nerve roots.
The injection does not change the underlying condition; however, it helps break the cycle of pain and inflammation and allow the damaged nerves to heal. For some patients, the injection provides pain relief permanently; for others, the relief may last for several months and additional treatments may be necessary.
Conditions Treated with Cervical Steroid Injections
When pain does not respond to conservative treatments, a cervical steroid injection is one of many methods doctors use to relieve pain, along with physical therapy, oral medications, and surgery. An epidural injection can help alleviate the pain that is caused by:
Other injuries to spinal nerves, vertebrae, and surrounding tissues.
The treatment is not recommended for back pain that begins suddenly.
How Do Cervical Steroid Injections Work?
The procedure is often done on an outpatient basis with the aid of imaging guidance, such as fluoroscopy (multiple x-ray images) or computed tomography (CT or “CAT” scan). The imaging helps the doctor place the needle in the exact location to target the area causing the pain allowing the patient to receive maximum benefits from the injection.
The injection of medication directly into the epidural space allows it to move throughout the space and coat inflamed nerve roots. The reduction of swelling allows the nerve time to heal and relieve the pain. Some patients request mild sedation for the procedure, but many patients undergo the injection using only local anesthetic.
The duration of improvement from a steroid injection varies. Some patients experience permanent relief. However, the effects may not be long-lasting in all patients. In some cases, a series of injections may be necessary before there is significant pain relief. In cases where the pain returns, an alternative treatment may be necessary.
Who Can Benefit from a Cervical Steroid Injection?
Cervical steroid injections can help reduce pain and improve function so the patient can return to normal daily activities. Most patients can return to their previous level of activities the day after the procedure.
Every individual is different. Most people who receive a cervical steroid injection obtain some improvement. Others may find the effect is temporary and offers little to no long-term relief. In some cases, a series of injections may be necessary to receive maximum benefit from the medication. If the epidural injections do not help alleviate the pain, a different therapeutic approach may be needed for relief.
Patients who engage in exercise programs, activity modification, and ergonomic corrections have more positive results than injections alone.
Novus Spine & Pain Center
Dr. Torres established Novus Spine & Pain Center in Lakeland, Florida, with the goal of providing the highest quality pain management care to every patient. Whether pain is the result of an injury or another condition, Dr. Torres offers many different treatment options.
Novus Spine & Pain Center utilizes a comprehensive approach and cutting-edge therapies to restore normal function and allow patients to regain an active lifestyle while minimizing the need for opiates. As our patient, you are our top priority. Our goal is to help you achieve the best possible quality of life.
Our Mission Statement:To provide the best quality of life to people suffering from pain, by providing state of the art treatments, knowledge and skill, compassion, and respect for all.