Skip Navigation
Epidural Steroid Injections

An epidural steroid injection is placement of a dose of steroid medication through a needle into the epidural space in the spine. The epidural space is the area around the spinal nerves next to the tough covering that surrounds them, called the dura.

What are the goals of an epidural steroid injection?

  • To reduce or eliminate pain
  • To increase function
  • To possibly eliminate need for surgery

How can an epidural steroid injection help my condition?

The steroid medication in the epidural injection is similar to the steroid that is normally made by your body.  Steroids act to decrease inflammation and swelling of irritated nerves the can cause pain and limit movement.

To obtain the best benefit and least side effects, the amount of steroids in the epidural injection is carefully monitored.  You will be limited to 6 epidural injections per year.  If you are diabetic the steroid medication may increase your blood sugar so you should watch it closely for the first week after your injection.

How do I prepare for the epidural steroid injection?

You MUST have someone with you to drive home.

  • You may have clear liquids after midnight until 2 hours before your appointment and the nothing to eat or drink.  Clear liquids include Jell-O, broth, 7-Up, tea, coffee and apple juice.  No milk or milk products.  You may take all your normal medications, including pain medication with a sip of water.
  • If you are diabetic or have a bleeding disorder or take medications such as Coumadin, Lovenox, or Plavix that affect your bleeding, please call us at 570-271-6621.
  • Bring a list of your medications including dose and how often you take them.
  • Please bring with you any x-rays or MRI films and reports not done at Geisinger Medical Center.
  • You should plan on being here 2 to 4 hours.
  • Your exam and/or treatment will be done in theInterventional Pain Center at Geisinger-Woodbine
  • What happens during an epidural steroid injection?
  • You will be positioned on your stomach, lying on your side or sitting.  If sitting, you will be asked to rest your elbows on your knees and bend your head so your chin touches your chest and your back arches outward.
  • The area of the injection will be cleaned with an antiseptic solution and covered with a sterile drape.
  • The doctor will inject local anesthetic to numb the injection site.
  • You will be asked to remain as still as possible.
  • You will feel pressure while the doctor finds the epidural space and while the medication is being injected. For, your comfort, the doctor will inject the medication slowly.

How long is the procedure?

The entire procedure takes about 10 minutes.

What happens after the procedure?

You will be taken to our recovery area where your blood pressure and pulse will be monitored for 15-20 min.  You will be offered liquids.  Discharge instructions will be reviewed and you will receive a copy of them when your check out.

Steroids take 24 to 48 hours to start to absorb and work so it may be a few days before you feel any relief and up to a week to 10 days before you have significant relief.

Discharge instructions

  • No strenuous activity for 24 hours after the injection. 
  • Do Not drive or operate machinery until the next day.
  • Take your usual pain medications or prescriptions as written.
  • You may eat your normal diet.

Temporary side effects

  • Numbness and tingling in extremities
  • Headache
  • Increased blood sugar in diabetic patients
  • Increased pain the first 48 hours

Warnings: Call Pain Medicine, 570-271-6621

  • Fever greater then 101 degrees
  • Redness, swelling or pus-like drainage at injection site
  • Severe headache

Return your follow-up questionnaire in the envelope provided in 7-10 days.

Your return appointment will be scheduled when you check out.

If you have any problems or concerns, please call us at 570-271-6621 Monday through Friday 7:30 to 4:30.  If it is after hours, call 570-271-6211 and ask for the Chronic Pain physician on call.