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Complications of Cervical Epidural Steroid Injections

By Randi Morse 

When you're dealing with chronic back pain, the need to find relief can be overwhelming. Patients often try everything and anything they can think of to find comfort, including trying strange, wacky remedies they find online rather than something more tried and true such as chiropractic. In the last handful of years, there have been many people suffering from back pain who choose to use cervical epidural steroid injections in order to help rid themselves of their pain. What are these injections, and are they truly the best option when you're dealing with back pain? 

Cervical Epidural Steroid Injections 

A cervical epidural steroid injection is commonly used to treat pain in the upper back or the neck. There are a few different techniques that a physician can use to place the injection, but the basic concept is the same no matter how, or where, they choose to inject the epidural. The physician places a long needle into your back in order to inject a type of anesthesia directly into the spine. This anesthetic generally starts working in two to seven days, but the length of time it works varies from person to person. Some find their pain is relieved for months, others find they only have relief for a few weeks. The procedure can be repeated but the more often it is repeated, the more patients are at risk of complications from the injections. 


While it seems like cervical epidural steroid injections are the best option to eliminate back pain, the truth is that there are several potential complications associated with them. While many patients find no side effects from the procedure, there are a large number who do. Some patients wind up with a spinal cord injury after the procedure is completed while others have even more serious complications like respiratory arrest. A common complication from this procedure is headaches. Because the needle is piercing directly into the spine, it is not uncommon for a patient to deal with serious headaches for some time following the procedure. There have even been a handful of cases of epidural hematoma. 

If you are dealing with back pain, should you request a cervical epidural steroid injection? A good rule of thumb is to use that only as a last-ditch effort to relieve pain. There are a few things you can do to help alleviate back discomfort prior to having anesthesia injected directly into your spine, including seeking the expertise of a chiropractor. An experienced, well-trained chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic may be able to help ensure any stress or alignment issues in your back are remedied, which can take the pain away. And you can do it without risk of addiction from painkillers or getting stuck with a needle.

To learn more about your health, wellness and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Lakewood, Colo.

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