Epidural Steroid Injection

What is Epidural Steroid Injection

An epidural steroid injection is a shot of steroid medicine and numbing medicine that is given into the space between the spinal cord and the bones in your back (epidural space). The shot helps relieve pain caused by an irritated or swollen nerve root.

The amount of pain relief you get from the injection depends on what is causing the nerve to be swollen and irritated, and how long your pain lasts. You are more likely to benefit from this injection if your pain is strong and comes on suddenly rather than if you have had pain for a long time.

Tell a health care provider about:

  • Any allergies you have.
  • All medicines you are taking, including vitamins, herbs, eye drops, creams, and over-the-counter medicines.
  • Any problems you or family members have had with anesthetic medicines.
  • Any blood disorders you have.
  • Any surgeries you have had.
  • Any medical conditions you have.

Whether you are pregnant or may be pregnant.

What are the risks?

Generally, this is a safe procedure. However, problems may occur, including:

  • Headache.
  • Bleeding.
  • Infection.
  • Allergic reaction to medicines.
  • Damage to your nerves.

What happens before the procedure?

Staying hydrated

Follow instructions from your health care provider about hydration, which may include:

  • Up to 2 hours before the procedure – you may continue to drink clear liquids, such as water, clear fruit juice, black coffee, and plain tea.

Eating and drinking restrictions

Follow instructions from your health care provider about eating and drinking, which may include:

  • 8 hours before the procedure – stop eating heavy meals or foods such as meat, fried foods, or fatty foods.
  • 6 hours before the procedure – stop eating light meals or foods, such as toast or cereal.
  • 6 hours before the procedure – stop drinking milk or drinks that contain milk.
  • 2 hours before the procedure – stop drinking clear liquids.


  • You may be given medicines to lower anxiety.
  • Ask your health care provider about:
    • Changing or stopping your regular medicines. This is especially important if you are taking diabetes medicines or blood thinners.
    • Taking medicines such as aspirin and ibuprofen. These medicines can thin your blood.Do nottake these medicines before your procedure if your health care provider instructs you not to.

General instructions

  • Plan to have someone take you home from the hospital or clinic.

What happens during the procedure?

  • You may receive a medicine to help you relax (sedative).
  • You will be asked to lie on your abdomen.
  • The injection site will be cleaned.
  • A numbing medicine (local anesthetic) will be used to numb the injection site.
  • A needle will be inserted through your skin into the epidural space. You may feel some discomfort when this happens. An X-ray machine will be used to make sure the needle is put as close as possible to the affected nerve.
  • A steroid medicine and a local anesthetic will be injected into the epidural space.
  • The needle will be removed.
  • A bandage (dressing) will be put over the injection site.

What happens after the procedure?

  • Your blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, and blood oxygen level will be monitored until the medicines you were given have worn off.
  • Your arm or leg may feel weak or numb for a few hours.
  • The injection site may feel sore.
  • Do notdrive for 24 hours if you received a sedative.

Care After Epidural Steroid Injection

These instructions provide you with information about caring for yourself after your procedure. Your health care provider may also give you more specific instructions.

Your treatment has been planned according to current medical practices, but problems sometimes occur. Call your health care provider if you have any problems or questions after your procedure.

What can I expect after the procedure?

After your procedure, it is common to feel a little discomfort at the injection site.

Follow these instructions at home:

  • For 24 hours after the procedure:
    • Avoid using heat on the injection site.
    • Do nottake a tub bath, and do notsoak in water.
    • Do notdrive if you received a medicine to help you relax (sedative).
  • If directed, put ice on the injection site:
    • Put ice in a plastic bag.
    • Place a towel between your skin and the bag.
    • Leave the ice on for 20 minutes, 2–3 times a day.
  • Return to your normal activities as told by your health care provider. Ask your health care provider what activities are safe for you.
  • You may remove the bandage (dressing) after 24 hours.
  • Take over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your health care provider.
  • Keep all follow-up visits as told by your health care provider. This is important.

Contact a health care provider if:

  • You have a fever.
  • You continue to have pain and soreness around the injection site, even after taking over-the-counter pain medicine.
  • You have severe, sudden, or lasting nausea or vomiting.

Get help right away if:

  • You have severe pain at the injection site that is not relieved by medicines.
  • You develop a severe headache or a stiff neck.
  • You become sensitive to light.
  • You have any new numbness or weakness in your legs or arms.
  • You lose control of your bladder or bowel movements.
  • You have trouble breathing.

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