What to Expect at an Epidural Steroid Injection Appointment


What are epidural steroid injections?

Epidural steroid injections consist of the delivery of medicine into the epidural space via a syringe. The epidural space is the fat-filled area covering the spinal cord. It protects the spinal cord and surrounding nerves from damage. Many people confuse an epidural anesthesia injection, widely known to relieve pain as women are giving birth, with an epidural steroid injection.

Epidural injections can help manage chronic pain and relieve pain during and after surgery. They can provide long-lasting pain relief with few side effects. Diagnostic epidurals can help with identifying underlying causes of pain.

What to expect at an epidural steroid injection appointment

Epidural injections are normally outpatient procedures. Individuals are either lying face down, on their side, or sitting up and may be asked to change into a surgical gown for easier access. In most cases, individuals undergo the procedure with just a local anesthetic, although a mild sedative may be available if necessary.

A needle with the steroid and numbing medication is inserted into the back, using x-rays to guide the needle. Contrast dye ensures the medication goes to the exact area. The medicine is injected, usually combined with a local anesthetic, to decrease swelling and relieve nerve pain. Pressure may be felt during the injection; however, it is typically not painful. Individuals are monitored for 15 to 20 minutes before going home.

After the injection

The area will be cleaned and bandaged, and the individual will be allowed to rest. Some people don’t feel anything during their epidural steroid injections, although others feel pressure, burning, tingling, or momentary pain. If an intense, sharp pain is felt during or after the injection, notify the health care professional as soon as possible.

Normal activities can generally be resumed the day after the injection. The steroid will typically begin to work between one and three days, although it can take up to a week to experience a significant change. Epidural steroid injections can provide pain relief for several months and can be repeated if successful. Persistent pain may indicate that the origin is from somewhere other than the spinal nerves.


The health care professional should be notified prior to an epidural steroid injection if certain health conditions exist. They include the following:

  • Diabetes
  • Allergy to contrast dye
  • Pregnancy
  • Glaucoma
  • Current medications, herbs, supplements, and over-the-counter drugs