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Cervical Epidural Steroid

What is a Cervical Epidural Steroid Injection?

A cervical epidural steroid injection is a treatment method for pain in the neck and the upper region of the back. Upper back and neck pain reportedly affects 50-80% of adults at some point in their lives. There are numerous conditions that may cause neck and upper back pain such as cervical radiculitis, a herniated disc, strained muscles, and pinched nerves.

Cervical radiculitis occurs due to excessive pressure that is placed on spinal nerves, especially in the neck region, causing the nerves to become irritated and inflamed. The inflamed nerves extend from the spinal cord into various areas of the body and, because nerves are responsible for pain signal transmission, damaged nerves can result in chronic pain. Patients who have cervical radiculitis typically report experiencing sharp pains that shoot down one of the arms as well as weakness and numbness in the extremities.

Effective Treatment

One of the most effective forms of treatment for cervical radiculitis and chronic neck pain is a cervical epidural steroid injection. Research shows that an epidural steroid injection can rapidly reduce pain and completely alleviate pain for some individuals. The mechanism of action for steroid injections is still being studied, but it has been proposed that the medication, particularly the steroid that is injected, targets inflammation. Steroids also have additional useful properties that make them especially effective, which include an ability to promote the stability of the membranes surrounding the nerves and to hinder the conduction of ions. These processes are associated with reduced pain.

A meta-analysis study that focused on reviewing clinical reports regarding the effectiveness and safety of steroid injections, included data that was obtained over a span of ten years. The results showed strong support for the administration of epidural steroid injections to treat chronic pain.

How are Cervical Epidural Steroid Injections Performed?

In order to understand the injection procedure and where the medication is injected, a brief description of the spinal region will first be explained. The spinal region includes a column of individual bones, called vertebrae, that encase and protect the spinal cord. A vast number of nerves extend out from the spinal cord to the rest of the body. The spinal cord is held in place by a strong membrane. Directly outside of the membrane is a region known as the epidural space, where nerve roots are located. This is the area in which steroids are injected if nerves become pinched, damaged, or inflamed.

How Does the Injection Work?

Before the injection procedure begins, topical anesthesia is applied to the skin. Next, in order to prevent healthy nerve roots from being exposed to too much medication, the physician will use imaging technology such as fluoroscopy to guide the insertion of the needle and to confirm its correct placement in the epidural space. In addition, contrast dye is typically injected in order to observe where the medication will be administered and to ensure that it will be properly distributed throughout the targets areas. The administration of steroids and an anesthetic such as Lidocaine directly onto the nerves roots results in dramatic or complete pain relief. The steroid decreases inflammation, while the anesthetic disrupts pain signal transmission.

Factors for Cervical Epidural Steroid Injection

If you have spinal nerve root inflammation, nerve irritation, pain, numbness, muscle weakness, or tingling you may need an epidural steroid injection.

Our surgeons may also suggest a cervical epidural steroid injection for the following conditions that can cause cervical radiculopathy such as:

  • Cervical spondylosis
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Herniated disc
  • Spinal stenosis

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms or have one of these conditions, there is a possibility you could need a steroid injection. With 5 centrally located clinics in Wisconsin and an extensive team of licensed board physicians and advanced practice providers, get access to an early diagnosis and a transformative treatment outcome.


What Are the Cervical Epidural Side Effects?

With a cervical epidural injection, usually, the side effects are very small. If you are to experience any, you might likely have itchy skin, low blood pressure, nausea, loss of bladder control, headache, temporary nerve damage, and slow breathing. If you experience any of these, it's important you inform your doctor.

How Long Does a Cervical Epidural Steroid Injection Last?

You should feel pain relief from the injection for a few days up to several months afterward. Sometimes, the injection isn't always effective for everyone, so you might need a further injection or a different treatment.

What Not to Do After Cervical Epidural Injection?

After you've had your injection, it's essential you closely follow your doctor's instructions. They may advise you not to drive 12 hours following your injection and to prevent putting heat on the injection area for 72 hours.

Updated on Apr 15, 2024 by Dr. Thomas Stauss (Pain Management) of Pro Spine & Pain

Thomas Stauss, MD

Thomas Stauss, MD, completed both his undergraduate and medical studies at the esteemed University of Wisconsin in Madison. Dr. Stauss values having access to a wide array of cutting-edge treatment options, ensuring effective relief for his patients' discomfort and a significant enhancement in their quality of life. More specifically, he specializes in utilizing implanted devices to manage chronic pain. Dr. Stauss’s primary objective is to uphold the dignity of each patient while delivering ethical and professional services.

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