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Injections for back pain

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About injections for back pain 

If you have persistent back or neck pain, your doctor may recommend a spinal injection to treat the pain or to help diagnose the problem. If an injection in a particular place relieves pain, your doctor may be able identify the cause of your pain.

During the procedure, a steroid – sometimes in combination with a local anaesthetic – is injected into, or near, your spine. This reduces any inflammation in the area and numbs nearby nerves, helping to reduce the back pain or any associated pain that can radiate into your arms, shoulder, buttock or legs.

There are several different types of back pain injections, depending on where the pain is located and what is causing it. 

  • Facet joint injection. This is an injection into the small joints that link your spine together (facet joints).It is often carried out for arthritic pain in your neck, middle back or lower back regions.
  • Sacroiliac joint injection. Similar to a facet joint injection, this is an injection into a joint on your spine. You have two sacroiliac joints at the base of your back, connecting your spine to your sacrum (part of your pelvis).
  • Selective nerve root block. Also called a dorsal root ganglion block, this involves an injection into a group of nerve cells on either side of your spine called the dorsal root ganglion.
  • Epidural. An epidural is an injection into the epidural space – the area around your spine.

How can I prepare for an injection for back pain? 

When you have an injection into your back, you will usually be seen as a day case. Ask a friend to take you home, because you may not be able to drive immediately after the procedure.

When you go to the hospital, take a list of any medicines you are currently taking. You doctor will want to know these, especially any blood thinning medications.

Before the injection, your doctor may arrange an X-ray, a CT or an MRI scan. If you are a women, you will be asked if there is any possibility that you may be pregnant before having an X-ray or CT scan. 

What happens during my treatment?

Before the procedure, your doctor will explain the process to you and ask you to sign a consent form.

You will usually be asked to lie on your front. Depending on the type of injection, your doctor may use a device called a fluoroscope to show an X-ray of your back on a screen in real-time. He or she will use the fluoroscope to locate the area of the spine he or she wishes to inject. Your doctor may suggest a sedative to help you relax.

When ready, your doctor will sterilise the skin on your back and may inject a local anaesthetic there. This will stop you from feeling the next injection into your spine.

Your doctor will then gently insert a larger needle into your spine and guide it the required area. When your doctor is happy the needle is positioned correctly, he or she will slowly inject a solution of a steroid, sometimes in combination with a local anaesthetic.

Are there any complications or risks with an injection for back pain?

Like any procedure, a spinal injection carries some risks of complication. However these are rare. They include allergic reactions, infections and bleeding.

Some people may also have side effects from the steroid in the injection. These may include not sleeping well, nervousness or nightmares, however, these side effects are short lasting.

Recovering from an injection for back pain

After a spinal injection your doctor will help you stand. You might feel some weakness in your legs – this happens if the nerves that control your movement have been temporarily affected.

How effective the procedure is varies between individuals. It can take a few days for the steroid to have an effect on any inflammation. Your doctor may recommend physiotherapy exercises in the weeks following your procedure to aid your recovery.

What to do now

Once you have decided that you would like to be treated at an HCA hospital, or would like further information, here's what to do next:

  1. Call one of our advisors on +44 (0) 20 7079 4399 or complete our web enquiry form.
  2. Check with your insurance company that your policy covers your treatment, and obtain authorisation.
  3. Visit or call your GP to obtain a referral letter and then call us to make an appointment to visit your chosen consultant and hospital at a time to suit you.
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