When having an epidural steroid injection, the outcome and experience is not the same for everyone. First of all, the nerves of the spine control and affect different areas of the body, and the location of the injection can change the outcome of the procedure. I was told that I would have very little pain during and after the epidural steroid injection, but my experience was not typical, and it was not pain-free. What to expect during an epidural steroid injection varies from person to person, but the following information tells of my personal experience.
This information on my experience with an epidural steroid injection is not meant to sensationalize my problem or scare anyone going through the same. Although the pain and the other problems I experienced during my epidural steroid injection will probably not happen to you, they happened to me, and I am sharing my experiences in an effort to express what can happen when having an epidural steroid injection and why it is important to go through every recommended treatment.
Preparation for the Epidural Steroid Injection
The night before the scheduled epidural steroid injection I was instructed not to eat or drink after midnight. The epidural steroid injection was scheduled for 7:30 a.m. I was also instructed not to wear makeup, jewelry, lotions, or powder. My heart would be monitored, and the attachments would not stick to powder or lotion-covered skin. Also, a driver had to accompany me or the epidural steroid injection would be canceled.
When arriving at the hospital for an epidural steroid injection that would hopefully relieve the numbness and pain in my left thigh caused by herniated discs, I first had to take a pregnancy test. The test was not by choice. A matter of fact I was certain this was not possible, but it was required since the procedure could cause serious problems in an unborn child.
After the required pregnancy test I had to remove all of my clothes and put on a gown and a pair of footies provided by the hospital. The nurse took my vitals including blood pressure, pulse, and temperature. She also placed a clamped intravenous tube in the top of my hand. I do not know what the first shot administered contained, but I began feeling tired and more relaxed after about twenty minutes. My vitals were checked a few more times before I was wheeled into the operating room where I would receive the epidural steroid injection.
My Experience with an Epidural Steroid Injection in L-3
Upon entering the room on a stretcher, I noticed an x-ray machine that held an oversized illuminated view of a spine. This could have been my spine or the spine of the person that was in the room before me. This was not explained. In any case, this special x-ray machine would assist the doctor in locating the exact place to administer the epidural steroid injection.
I was transferred from the stretcher to a comfortable operating table that was equipped with pillows and pillow forms in just the right places to position my back for the epidural steroid injection. Although I was comfortable I was somewhat nervous, and while I laid on my stomach with my head tilted to one side, a nurse stood in front of my head with her hands gently over mine. This made me feel a little more at ease before the epidural steroid injection. Another nurse cleaned my skin around the site where the injection would be placed, probably with betadine or another type of antiseptic skin cleanser. It seemed as if she applied the antiseptic to my entire lower back.
Seconds later, I heard the doctor enter the room, and one of the nurses told him my name as well as the procedure that was scheduled to take place. Next, a nurse informed me that she was putting sedation medication into the I.V before the epidural steroid injection. I was surprised since the doctor was ready to perform the epidural steroid injection, and I did not know how it could work fast enough to make me feel more relaxed let alone ease the pain I would surely endure. The epidural spinal injection was supposed to be done under conscious sedation, and I was no longer feeling very relaxed knowing what was about to happen.
The next feeling I had was severe shooting pain inside the top of my thigh, and it did not shoot through a single nerve. It felt as if it traveled through every nerve in my thigh, and it was extraordinarily painful and somewhat shocking. I did not feel the needle go in, but I felt the result of the steroid epidural injection. I had all I could do not to cry out or move. Instead, I gripped the table, and the nurse reassured me that everything was okay. In just a few seconds the epidural spinal injection was over, and I was being wheeled back on the first stretcher and into a recovery area.
Upon reaching the recovery area after the epidural steroid injection I was on my back once again, and it did not take long to notice that the muscle in my thigh was becoming extremely tight and very painful. The muscles had taken on a life of their own, and they were twitching and moving as if my leg were filled with writhing creatures trying to make their way out through my skin. My thigh became tighter and increasingly painful, and when the nurse told the doctor what was happening, he instructed her to give me a shot of morphine.
It took about twenty minutes for the morphine to take the edge off the pain caused by the epidural steroid injection. Surprisingly the morphine never completely took away the pain, and I had to find a way to get some relief on my own. I began moving my leg and foot to force the muscles to work, and after noticing a little success, I decided to try and stand. The more I moved my leg the better it felt, and the pain eventually moved into my knee. It ached terribly, and the pain came and went, but it eventually subsided and I was allowed to go home.
The Ending Result of My Epidural Steroid Injection
It is currently too soon to tell if the epidural steroid injection worked to stop the numbness, tightness, and pain in my thigh by reducing the inflammation. I was told it could take anywhere from hours to days to work – if it would work at all. Some people do not find the relief they seek after a single epidural steroid injection, and it is sometimes necessary to have subsequent epidural steroid injections a couple of weeks apart.
Although I suffered greatly after having my first epidural steroid injection, I will go through more treatments if necessary. If I do not try everything possible to stop the numbness and pain in my leg caused by herniated discs pressing on spinal nerves, everything I have gone through thus far would be for nothing. I have suffered a great deal of pain in my life because of spinal stenosis and herniated discs, and I will do what it takes to help myself improve and live more comfortably with this debilitating condition.