Pain Management

October 5, 2016

Our Recovery Tips for Managing the Side Effects of Epidural Injections


Epidural injections can offer relief for those who deal with chronic back, leg, or neck pain, but they might also cause side effects. These tips for managing the side effects of pain injections can help decrease discomfort and improve results.

Epidural steroid injections are a form of interventional pain management that can help ease soreness and inflammation in your leg, back and neck. These injections, which are administered in the spinal nerve roots in the affected area, can be effective for relieving pain and promoting healing. But this form of inteventional pain management is also associated with some side effects that need to monitored and managed during the initial recovery period.

Numbness is a common side effect as the local anesthesia used with injections wears off. Numbness or tingling should resolve on its own. Let your doctor know right away if you lose feeling in your arms or legs or if you lose control of your bladder or bowels after the anesthesia wears off. These effects could indicate nerve damage and should be assessed by your doctor.

Localized Pain
Some patients experience an initial increase in pain in the affected area after having an epidural injection. This pain, which can last for several days, usually occurs when the local anesthesia wears off and the steroids have not started to take effect yet. You can manage this soreness by:

  • Applying ice packs. Putting ice on the affected area might help ease pain and soreness temporarily.
  • Taking over-the-counter pain medication. Taking a nonprescription pain reliever, such as acetaminophen, can provide short-term relief.
  • Limiting activity. Exercise and other activities should be limited until pain subsides.
  • Keeping track of pain. Take notes on localized pain, such as how severe it is or when it flares up more, and share these with your doctor. Notify your doctor right away if you have serious pain that does not respond to ice packs, over-the-counter pain medications and relaxation.

Headaches can occur after having an epidural injection. These non-positional headaches usually go away on their own within 24 hours. You can manage headaches caused by pain injections by taking over-the-counter pain relievers and resting. Let your doctor know if you have a headache that does not go away or if it becomes worse. Headaches that feel worse when you are sitting or standing and feel better when you lie down could mean that you have a post-dural puncture, which typically goes away after six weeks.

Some patients run a fever the night of their injection. If you end up with a fever, you should rest and take over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen, to reduce the fever if it is causing considerable discomfort. If you have a fever of 101 degrees or more that lasts longer than 24 hours, call your doctor. A high, persistent fever could indicate that you have an infection, which requires immediate medical care.

High Blood Sugar
If you have diabetes, you should be aware that epidural injections can cause high blood sugar. Talk to your doctor about this risk before having injections done, and follow your doctor’s orders for what to do if you have elevated blood sugar afterwards.

Keep in mind that side effects from pain injections are relatively rare. If you experience these side effects or other potential effects, such as anxiety, sleeplessness or facial flushing, talk to your doctor. These side effects tend to resolve within a few days, but they might require medical intervention if they persist.

The vast majority that receive epidural steroid injections will not experience these side effects. After the injection, you should take the rest of the day off to relax and get some rest. Most patients return to work the next day.

If you have chronic pain and would like to learn more about interventional pain management, contact Arkansas Surgical Hospital at (877) 918-7020 for an appointment with a pain management specialist.

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