An Epidural Steroid Injection, or ESI, is a treatment used to alleviate lower back pain and leg pain emanating from the back. It is usually used in conjunction with other treatments, including physical therapy, medication and bracing, to aid a patient’s healing and recovery. The injection is a combination of a steroid (such as cortisone) and a local anesthetic, which is injected into the spinal canal in the lower back using an X-ray machine for guidance.
The vast majority of patients experience only a mild discomfort from the injection. Generally, we limit patients to 3 – 4 ESIs per year. The most common reasons ESI is used in patients include disk herniations, pinched nerves and spinal arthritis, among others. In addition, ESI can also be helpful as a pre-operative planning tool, allowing us to determine the specific source of pain prior to back surgery.
Back pain can be frustrating and complicated, and a spine specialist can best determine whether a combination of ESI with other therapy may be helpful for a particular patient.
Matthew T. DesJardins, M.D. is a sports medicine and spine specialist with Commonwealth Orthopaedic Centers.