Epidural steroid injections are an effective treatment for many different back and spine conditions, including sciatica, spinal stenosis, herniated discs, and non-specific lower back pain. They can provide rapid relief, enabling you to get back to your daily activities.
Pain relief from epidural injections for back pain usually lasts for several weeks up to a year. Research suggests epidural steroid injections are most effective in the short- to medium-term, often offering six to 12 months of pain relief [1-2].
At Harley Street Specialist Hospital, we offer many types of injections for back pain reduction, helping you get back on your feet even if you have severe or chronic pain. Access support from the UK’s largest pool of pain management consultants to help you find the right treatment.
In this article, learn more about how long epidural injections for back pain last, and when you can expect these effects to kick in.
Table of Contents
- How do epidural injections for back pain help?
- When will my back pain ease after an epidural injection?
- How long do epidural injections for back pain last?
- What type of pain relief will I feel?
- How will I know when the epidural injection wears off?
- Can I have more than one epidural steroid injection?
- What can I do if epidural injections don’t work?
How do epidural injections for back pain help?
Back pain is often caused by muscle or joint inflammation. Swelling can dislodge the discs between the bones of the spine, potentially trapping a nerve and leading to pain in the back, hips, and legs. If you have arthritis, you might also find that stiff, inflamed joints make it painful and difficult to move.
An epidural injection delivers corticosteroids to areas of your spine that are prone to inflammation, reducing swelling around the discs and joints. Treating inflammation can alleviate pain and ease symptoms of a trapped nerve, arthritis, and other causes of back pain.
When will my back pain ease after an epidural injection?
Epidural injections are one of the quickest ways to get relief from back pain. Studies show that they can take effect within just two weeks, but many people feel less pain within just a few days .
When you get an epidural injection for back pain, you’ll usually feel immediate relief thanks to the local anaesthetic. As this wears off, your pain may increase for a day or two. But when the steroid starts to reduce inflammation and swelling in the affected area, you should start to feel substantial relief.
How long do epidural injections for back pain last?
When used to treat back pain, epidural injections usually last up to a year. The amount of time they last depends on:
- The type of steroid used — Certain steroids may be more effective or longer-lasting than others.
- Needle positioning — Ultrasound guided injections help pinpoint the right spot to inject the steroid.
- Getting enough rest after your injection — This ensures the steroid acts on the right area without being absorbed into the bloodstream or other areas of the body.
- Extent, location, and type of pain — Patients who had pain when bending backwards had shorter pain relief than those who didn’t .
What type of pain relief will I feel?
According to researchers, epidural injections for back pain can [1-2, 4-5]:
- Reduce pain by 83% after two weeks.
- Improve sleep quality by 69% after two weeks.
- Minimise symptoms of pain-related depression.
- Enhance flexibility when bending down towards the floor (also known as the fingertip-to-floor test).
- Reduce the need for lumbar decompression surgery.
- Improve your overall quality of life.
If you’re concerned about how much rest you need after cortisone injections (or other types of steroids), note that lots of people are up and about after just a few days.
How will I know when the epidural injection wears off?
If your pain levels start to increase after a few months, your epidural injection may be wearing off.
If you can, do Pilates or other exercises to strengthen your back and core muscles while the epidural is working. This can help reduce pain intensity after the epidural wears off. A physiotherapist may be able to help you remain pain-free after the epidural wears off with supportive strengthening exercises.
At our London-based hospital, our physiotherapy team works closely with pain management specialists and anaesthetists to create a fully tailored treatment plan for your back pain symptoms.
Can I have more than one epidural steroid injection?
Yes — patients with chronic back pain can often have multiple steroid injections to keep discomfort at bay. However, there are some limits to be aware of. You can’t normally have another steroid injection if:
- You’ve had a steroid injection in the last three months.
- You’ve had four steroid injections in the last year.
- You have developed certain medical conditions since your last injection (such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart problems).
- You’ve started taking a medication that might interact with steroids.
- You’re pregnant, breastfeeding, or trying to conceive.
What can I do if epidural injections don’t work?
Epidural steroid injections are successful in the majority of cases. Up to 80% of patients with a slipped disc in the lower back said receiving up to four injections in one year decreased their pain by at least half .
But if steroid injections don’t give you effective pain relief, there are still options available to you. These include radiofrequency ablation (a procedure to stop the nerves sending pain signals to the brain) and lumbar decompression surgery (an operation to relieve pressure on your spinal discs).
Ultimately, the treatment you need depends on the cause of your back pain, as well as the duration and severity of your condition. To get your assessment, diagnosis, and back pain treatment plan on the same day, book an appointment at Harley Street Specialist Hospital.