Epidurals help relieve and manage pain by inserting steroid and numbing medications into the epidural space, which is the area surrounding the fluid-filled sac that envelops the spine, according to Medline Plus. This reduces swelling and pressure around the spinal nerves and alleviates pain.
During the procedure, a doctor cleans the injection site and may inject medications to numb the area and help the patient relax. He inserts and guides the needle to the correct location using a real-time X-ray machine. Usually, the injection is not painful, and patients can leave a short time after the procedure. Epidural injections are different from the epidural anesthesia doctors give during surgery and labor, notes Medline Plus.
Those who have pain that extends from the spine downwards and affects other areas, such as the hips or legs, may be eligible for epidural injections. This type of pain is often due to a bulging disc or other nerve pressure, states Medline Plus. Doctors usually recommend the injection if treatments such as medication and physical therapy have not worked. Some complications that can arise in conjunction with the injections are dizziness or headache, root damage in the nerves and a hematoma in the spinal column. Having multiple injections can damage the bones or muscles near the spine.