Spinal injections are used to inject medications into the painful/injured area of the spine. Spinal injections can be used to diagnose (diagnostic) the cause of pain as well as treat (therapeutic) it. There are different types of spinal injections, often referred to as spinal blocks. Medications are injected into different segments of your spinal column such as the epidural space, intervertebral space, nerve roots or facet joints, depending on your condition.
In a diagnostic block, only a contrast agent along with a local anesthetic is used to determine the source of pain. In therapeutic blocks, a contrast agent, local anesthetic, and steroid are injected to reduce the pain and inflammation.
Spinal injections are usually performed under X-ray (fluoroscopy) guidance. This helps in accurate positioning of the needle. During this procedure, a local anesthetic is injected around the affected region to produce numbness. This is followed by the injection of a contrast material to delineate the structures in and around your spine. Then a steroid is injected to reduce inflammation and decrease your pain. Once injected into the affected region, the medication travels through the entire length of the spine to coat the nerve roots and the lining of the facet joints. The affected region becomes numb, often relieving pain.
Before your injection, an allergy testing may be required to check if you are allergic to the contrast agent.
The risks associated with spinal injections include:
- Nerve injury
- Dural puncture
- Necrosis of bone
- Spinal headache
- Muscle weakness
- Increased pain