Understanding Lumbar Epidural Steroid Injections

Lumbar puncture being performed

When most people hear the term ‘epidural,’ their minds immediately jump to childbirth. While lower lumbar epidurals are a time-tested method of relieving pain during childbirth, they have other uses. These shots can help ease numbness, pain, and tingling in the lower back and extremities. Their effectiveness at achieving this goal is what led to their use in the birthing room. However, they also can be used to treat other sources of pain and aid in restoring function and quality of life.

Understanding Lumbar Epidural Steroid Injections

Let’s take this opportunity to clear the air on what a lumbar epidural injection is. The first thing to know is that ‘epidural’ refers to the space in your lower back close to the spinal cord. These injections often contain a combination of steroids, painkillers, and anti-inflammatories to provide meaningful relief.


Administering an epidural injection requires a bit of care and finesse on the part of the doctor. Still, the procedure itself is relatively simple and provides almost instantaneous relief. In some cases, your physician may start by having an MRI, X-Ray, or CT Scan done to aid in finding the best spot to administer the shot. When the injection is finished, a process lasting less than 15 minutes, the pain should ease almost immediately. There may be some stinging or soreness near the injection site, and it’s normal to feel pressure during the process.

  • Steroids – Epidurals may be administered without a local anesthetic. Steroids help to alleviate the pain in your back by easing inflammation and reducing edema or swelling. It can take time for the pain relief to become effective. Local anesthetics are often included in an epidural to help provide some immediate relief.
  • Local Anesthetic – This may result in a feeling of numbness or heaviness in the legs. You’ll typically be able to walk after, but some extra care is needed. Listen to your doctor’s instructions and be careful to maintain your balance. If the injection only contained a local anesthetic, you may experience immediate relief. However, this relief will be short-lived, and the pain will almost certainly return.

It can take up to a week, most often 1-5 days, for the steroids to reach full effectiveness. Once they have fully taken effect, you may experience days, weeks, or even months of relief. To give the treatment the best chance of producing lasting results, take a little time to rest. This should be at least a few days, and getting some help during this time may be wise. Once the steroids have set in, you should be able to get back to your daily routine with less discomfort. Be aware that some patients experience nausea or dizziness following the injection, but these side effects usually pass quickly.

Your Spinal and Pain Specialist Can Tell You More

When you’re considering getting a lumbar epidural for pain relief, it’s important to speak to your specialist. They can provide a full explanation of what to expect, as well as help you determine if a lower lumbar epidural is right for you.


Dr. Todd A. Bromberg, M.D. When chronic pain and spinal issues impact your quality of life, you need a team of crack spine and pain specialists at your disposal. Delaware Valley Pain & Spine Institute works with some of the most respected experts in the field to bring pain relief and restored quality of life to patients in Pennsylvania and New Jersey!
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