March 29, 2021
Types of Injections for Joint & Spine Pain Relief
Over 30 million adults in the United States suffer from daily joint pain. Chronic or moderate-to-severe back and joint pain are two of the most common pain issues patients face.
While some pain can be alleviated by taking over-the-counter pain medications and anti-inflammatories, these solutions don’t work for everyone. Other options include applying heat or ice to the area, physical therapy, and prescription pain medications. If none of these give you consistent relief, the next step is usually an injection in the affected area.
Advantages of injections for back and joint pain relief include:
- Long-lasting pain relief (several months, in most cases)
- No danger of addiction from long-term prescription medication use
- Convenient, minimally invasive procedures
- Reduction of inflammation for improved movement
- Can be combined with other therapies
For many people, one or more injections for joint pain or back pain can control their discomfort for anywhere from two to nine months, giving them freedom from daily medications. Combined with physical therapy or exercise, pain relief injections can also get patients back on the road to a more active lifestyle.
The most common type of injection for joint pain relief is a steroid injection. Corticosteroids reduce inflammation and relieve pain within a few hours of the injection. They are often recommended for patients who have tried taking over-the-counter steroids without adequate results.
Many steroid injections contain a combination of corticosteroids to reduce inflammation and anesthetic for shorter-term pain relief. Because corticosteroids are injected directly into the joint or area of the back where the inflammation is located, the pain relief is more targeted.
Steroid injections are most commonly done in the knee, hip, and shoulder joints, although they can also be administered to areas such as the ankles and wrists. The effect usually lasts between two and three months, although it can last up to six months. For those with arthritis, the anti-inflammatory quality can improve the range of movement dramatically.
Steroid injections usually take about 20 minutes and can be administered by a physician in a medical office, hospital, or pain clinic. The anesthetic in the injection will provide almost immediate pain relief. However, over the next 24 to 36 hours, you can experience tenderness, swelling, and pain. The full effects will be felt in a few days as the steroids begin to work, reducing swelling and alleviating pain.
Nerve Blocks for Spine Pain
Sometimes called spinal blocks, nerve blocks are steroid injections used to treat a specific spinal nerve’s inflammation. They are sometimes used for diagnosing the origins of the spine pain. The patient is given an anesthetic, or a combination of anesthetics and steroids, near where the swollen nerve exits the spine between the vertebrae to deaden pain and reduce inflammation.
When nerve blocks are administered, they inhibit specific enzymes associated with irritation and pain, block pain transmissions to the brain, and reduce blood flow to nerve fibers. All of these factors contribute to improved mobility and dramatically reduced pain.
Nerve blocks can last anywhere from a few weeks to a year. The length of effectiveness depends on several factors, including the location of the affected nerve. It is important to note that, while highly effective for some patients, nerve blocks don’t provide relief for everyone.
Spinal nerve blocks are administered in a clinic or hospital setting. The needle’s insertion is guided by ultrasound, fluoroscopy, or contrast dyes to ensure the right location is treated and to avoid damage to the spinal cord.
Epidural Injections for Back Pain
If spine or back pain is widespread (rather than limited to a single or a few nerves), an epidural injection may be performed. An epidural injection is similar to a nerve block, but it doesn’t target a specific nerve root: instead of being injected into the inflamed area, an epidural is injected into the epidural space in the spinal column for more generalized relief over a larger area. In cases of spinal stenosis, for example, an epidural injection can be more effective than a nerve block. Usually, three injections are given over several weeks, with results lasting from three months to a year.
Are Pain Injections Right for You?
If you have chronic joint or spine pain that has negatively impacted your life, talk to the physicians at Arkansas Surgical Hospital. They can advise you on your treatment options, including the types of injections that may be right for you and whether surgery is recommended for lasting pain relief.