Our SPINE physician responds to a frequently asked question from our patients: “The epidural helps with my pain but only for 3 months, Will I have to repeat this procedure for the rest of my life?”
Dr. Sakai’s response:
I always tell my patients that epidural steroid injections are never required, since they are elective procedures. They can help manage pain, but generally do not fix the underlying cause of pain, such as a herniated disc. Having said that, there are rarely any fixes when it comes to pain, especially when it is chronic. So whether or not the injections should be repeated in your particular case depends on several factors. Injections may be indicated if you feel that you are not able to tolerate your current level of pain, and/or your pain significantly limits your ability to function, in terms of activities of daily living and physical activities. Also, you need to ask yourself if the degree of relief from the injection was significant. This is somewhat subjective, but generally you should be able to say that you experienced at least 50% reduction of pain overall. An even better indication of significant relief is improvement of function. On average, patients may get 2-4 months of relief with steroid injections. So the duration of significant relief should also be for a minimum of 6 weeks, preferably 2 months, in order to justify repeating injections again in the future. If you meet the above criteria, then it may be reasonable to repeat injections as needed, up to every 3 months or 4 times a year as needed. Pain can change and fluctuate over time, so you may not necessarily need to repeat the injections “for the rest of my life,” but it should be considered as one part of a comprehensive pain management treatment plan.