cervical epidural steroid injection procedure

When neck pain becomes more than just a saying, a cervical epidural steroid injection is one treatment option that might help. Here’s what you need to know about this approach. Call or request an appointment online with our expert pain specialist at Bay State Pain Management.

What is a cervical epidural steroid injection?   

A cervical steroid injection uses both an injection of both a steroid to control inflammation and a long-lasting anesthetic for pain relief. These injections are typically delivered into the cervical spine, the seven vertebrae that make up the neck portion of your spine. The injection is placed in the dura of the cervical spine. This is the space between the spinal cord and the vertebrae.

Cervical epidural steroid injections are a minimally-invasive procedure that can help relieve pain for some patients with severe or chronic neck and upper extremity pain. For many, it may help them avoid spinal surgery.

Where is the epidural space in the cervical spine?

The membrane that covers the spine and nerve roots in the neck is called the dura membrane. The space surrounding the dura is the epidural space. Nerves travel through the epidural space to the neck, shoulder and arms. Inflammation of these nerve roots may cause pain in these regions due to irritation from a damaged disc or from contract with the bony structure of the spine in some way.

What conditions can a cervical epidural steroid injection help with?

Cervical steroid injections are simple and relatively painless, but they can help with some very painful conditions. These include:

Neck pain
Upper back pain
Shoulder pain
Cervical spinal stenosis
Degenerative disc disease
Herniated or bulging discs 

Patients who experience neck pain or upper body pain that originates in the cervical spine typically feel pain or discomfort that radiates across the tops of their shoulders and moves into their arms and hands. This radiating pain is referred to as cervical radiculitis or radiculopathy.

As with sciatic pain experienced in the lower extremities, cervical radiculitis may feel like:

Shooting pain
Pins and needles in the shoulders, arms, and hands
Numbness or weakness in the arms and hands   

This type of pain occurs when a nerve in your neck is compressed or impinged due to any of the conditions listed above.

Although cervical epidural steroid injections are generally administered after more conservative treatments have failed, they can help you avoid cervical spinal surgery when your pain is intractable.

Conditions Related To Cervical Steroid Injections
A cervical epidural steroid injection is usually performed by an anesthesiologist who has confirmed that nerve pain or compressed nerves are causing a patient to experience neck or upper back pain.

Additional conditions that can be treated with cervical epidural steroid injections are:

A herniated disc: This occurs when one of the discs that act as a cushion between spinal vertebrae, ruptures, causing some of the jelly-like substance to leak out, irritating nearby nerves
Cervical spondylosis: This relates to damage to spinal discs in the neck, as a result of age-related wear and tear
Cervical radiculopathy: This refers to pain that results from any kind of condition or injury that causes damage to the nerves in the neck
Cervical spinal stenosis: This is a narrowing of the open spaces in the spine that results in pressure on the spinal cord and nerves, causing symptoms such as pain and numbness

Patients who are suffering from common problems such as chronic upper back and neck pain or cervical radiculitis can be treated with a cervical epidural steroid injection, which is a short and practically painless outpatient procedure.

It is believed that steroid injections are quite effective because they target the inflammation that is typically associated with nerve pain. As a result, most individuals who receive cervical epidural steroid injections report almost instantaneous pain relief as well as the ability to quickly return to their normal routines.