Do spinal injections work?

There are two types of spinal injection which we use: the first is to treat back pain and the second is to diagnose and treat sciatic pain.

Back pain spinal injections

Often back pain is linked to the facet joints which are the little joints between each vertebra which allow the spine to bend, rotate and move whilst also providing stability. When these degenerate or there is mechanical wear and tear they can cause pain. Long term this type of pain is treated with exercise, building core strength and physical therapies as well as yoga and pilates.

However sometimes the pain can be so severe that patients cannot tolerate these treatments. In these circumstances facet joint injections can offer pain relief to give a window of opportunity to allow the patient to complete these treatments. In some cases, the back pain can return rapidly and repeatedly but the injections continue to provide relief. In these cases, patients can be considered for facet joint denervation. This is a slightly more invasive technique targeting the same area but for a longer lasting effect.

Spine injections for sciatica

Injections to diagnose or treat sciatica are often called perineural injections, nerve root injections or transforaminal epidural injections. These are given to patients with specific symptoms – pain down one leg linked to irritation of one nerve root commonly known as sciatic pain (because it is the sciatic nerve which is being compressed).

These injections are commonly used for diagnostic purposes if there is any doubt from the MRI scan which nerve root is responsible for the pain – by injecting the area around the suspected nerve. These injections are also useful to help alleviate severe pain to allow the patient to complete other treatments such as physiotherapy which may work long term to treat the sciatic pain but currently the patient is unable to do so due to the pain. Injections are a useful tool when trying to avoid open surgery but it is always worth noting nothing works for everyone so it is always a good idea to discuss all options with your consultant before making a final decision.

Spinal epidural injections can on occasion be used when multiple nerve roots are involved in the source of the pain. Again it is important to discuss this with your consultant.

This article is intended to inform and give insight but not treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a doctor. Always seek medical advice with any questions regarding a medical condition.