Patients experiencing chronic pain in the mid-back and between the shoulder blades may be helped by receiving thoracic epidural steroid injections. Herniated discs, arthritis, and spinal stenosis are sometimes known to cause this type of pain. A thoracic epidural injection contains an anesthetic and steroid medication, both of which help reduce swelling and pain. Some patients have experienced adverse reactions such as headaches, nerve damage, increased pain, or infection from this treatment modality. Patients with these conditions have typically had good success and quality pain relief from the thoracic epidural injections. This minimally invasive injection therapy is recommended for patients that haven’t received adequate relief from more conservative treatments.
At the beginning of the procedure, a sedative may be given to help the patient relax during the thoracic epidural steroid injection. The patient lies on his or her stomach or side and the physician will sanitize the area and administer a local anesthetic. Once the anesthetic takes effect, the thoracic epidural injection will be administered into the epidural space of the thoracic spine. Pressure can be felt near the injection site with immediate pain relief to follow. It is not uncommon for patients to describe a pins and needles sensation around the affected area. Following the procedure, the patient will be released to return home to recover.
Patients often feel complete pain relief immediately after the procedure due to the anesthetic from the injection. However, the relief will likely subside within 30 minutes. Longer-lasting pain relief due to the steroid injection should be achieved within 7-10 days. Rest is required immediately following the procedure and patients should also avoid taking hot baths, performing strenuous activities, and taking additional pain medications. Patients may resume normal activity after 24 hours. Side effects are rare but it is possible for patients to experience adverse side effects. Signs of infection, fever, or increased pain should be reported to their physician. Patients who do not receive adequate pain relief may be eligible for future injections.