Spinal injections can be used both as a tool to diagnose back problems and as a therapy to treat pain in the back, neck, spine, legs, or arms. In both instances, a need is used to inject a specialized substance into the fluid-filled space that surrounds the spinal cord.
When used as a diagnostic tool, a substance called a contrast agent is injected around the spinal cord. The contrast agent helps your neuroradiologist use medical imaging to identify structural problems that can cause pain, numbness, weakness, and other symptoms.
When used as a therapy, medicines are injected to help relieve pain and reduce inflammation.
Spinal injections are performed under X-ray guidance, also known as fluoroscopy. Flouroscopy enables your doctor to visualize your spine to ensure accurate needle placement.
Spinal injections may be used to treat:
- Inflammation or damage to a nerve, often caused by a bulging disc
- Spinal stenosis
Spinal injections are generally used for pain that does not respond or only partially responds to oral pain medications or physical rehabilitation. They are more invasive than oral medications or rehabilitation, but still more conservative than spine surgery. However, spine surgery may be an option if your pain does not respond to more conservative measures.
You may be a candidate for spinal injections if your doctor feels they may allow you to delay or avoid spine surgery, or if pain medication or physical rehabilitation has not successfully treated your condition.
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- Date of last review: July 26, 2017