Did you know that chronic pain is one of the top conditions for which US adults see a doctor each year? The CDC estimates that one in four US adults suffer from a reoccurring pain disorder. If you’re someone who suffers from a pain disorder, you may think you’ve tried everything for your symptoms. But have you considered spinal injections?
Spinal injections can help diagnose pain conditions and also treat them. And this makes sense considering that issues with the spine cause some of the most common pain disorders.
Wondering if spinal injections are the treatment you’ve been searching for? Keep reading this guide to learn about the types of injections you can get if insurance will cover your treatments and more.
When Should You Consider Spinal Injections?
Doctors use spinal injections to diagnose pain conditions. These injections are also long-term treatments for pain caused by compressed nerves and/or degenerated spinal joints.
Nerve compression often happens due to aging, abdominal injuries, or slipped disks. Degenerated spinal joints are caused by conditions like:
- Failed Back Surgery Syndrome (FBSS)
- Spinal stenosis
If you’re experiencing neck, back, or leg pain, tingling, muscle weakness, or numbness, your symptoms could be a sign that you need spinal injections.
What Are the Types of Spinal Injections?
The ingredients used in spinal injections vary depending on whether the injection is for diagnostic or treatment purposes.
Diagnostic injections contain a local anesthetic. Meanwhile, injections used to treat spine-related pain typically contain steroids.
You may be wondering: do steroid injections make me gain weight? No, spinal steroid injections won’t cause weight gain.
Only systemic steroids cause weight gain. Targeted spinal injections administer fewer steroids to the spine than what the body produces on its own in a day.
Spinal injections also vary by injection site. We’ll talk more about the different types of injection sites next.
Epidural Steroid Injections
Doctors administer epidural steroid injections into the epidural space. These injections treat pain in the arms and legs. This type of injection can also help doctors isolate individual nerves responsible for radiating pain.
Facet Joint Injections
Facet joints are the connective tissues between individual vertebrae. Facet joint injections are helpful for injury- or arthritis-related neck and back pain.
Sacroiliac Joint Injections
Sacroiliac joints join the bottom of the vertebrae to your pelvic bone. Injections into this site can help with lower back pain, leg pain, and butt pain.
Intra-Articular Joint Injections
Intra-articular joint injections target pain in the shoulders, knees, and hips. These injections can also help treat other areas where you’re experiencing joint pain.
Medial Branch Nerve Blocks
Medial branch nerve blocks provide short-term relief from pain. However, if you want longer-term relief, your doctor will likely recommend another type of spine treatment on this list.
Doctors also use these injections to diagnose which nerve is causing your symptoms.
Sympathetic Nerve Blocks
Most of the above injections are for addressing nerve signals between the spinal cord and brain.
But you can also get sympathetic nerve blocks to temporarily benefit complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) and Raynaud’s syndrome.
Radiofrequency ablation is a modern type of injection that uses an electrical current to cauterize the nerve causing you pain. This prevents the nerve from sending pain signals to the brain.
Does Insurance Pay for Spine Injections?
Insurance will pay for injections that a doctor deems medically necessary.
Your insurance company may only cover a certain amount of the cost or require you to meet a deductible first. This is true of Medicare coverage for spinal injections, so check your insurance policy for more information.
Certain types of injections require you to meet specific requirements first. For example, you may need to have non-invasive pain treatments before insurance will cover spinal injections. Often, insurance will require six weeks of physical therapy prior to covering a spinal injection.
How Are Spinal Injections Done?
A spinal injection procedure can take as little as a few minutes. However, if you’re sedated, your appointment will take longer. You’ll also have to wait for the sedative to leave your system before you can go home. At Neurosurgery One, we perform all spinal injections with our patients sedated for their comfort.
During the procedure, you’ll lay on your stomach. The doctor will elevate the region with a pillow before injecting a local anesthetic and the steroid.
What Type of Doctor Gives Spinal Injections?
There are many types of doctors that can administer spinal injections.
Spine surgeons, such as Neurosurgery One neurosurgeons, are perhaps the most common doctors to see for spine conditions. However, neurologists, radiologists, anesthesiologists, and physiatrists typically administer spinal injections rather than surgeons. At Neurosurgery One, our board-certified physiatrists, who are pain management experts, administer spinal injects under sedation with x-ray guidance. This is why when you call to schedule an appointment with Neurosurgery One and ask to see a spine surgeon, our schedulers will discuss your situation to ensure that seeing a spine surgeon is the appropriate appointment for you. We want to help you avoid unnecessary clinic visits or delayed treatments by getting you the right help at the right time.
If you haven’t seen a provider for your spine pain, for instance, we may suggest that you see one of our Advanced Practice Providers who can conduct a physical examination, order imaging, and refer you for conservative treatment, such as physical therapy–all of which needs to be done prior to seeing a spine surgeon. If you’ve tried conservative therapy and haven’t found relief, seeing one of our pain management specialists is the next step. We can consider a variety of treatments, including spinal injections, that can help delay or even prevent the need for surgery.
Do Spinal Injections Hurt?
No, spinal injections don’t hurt because the doctor will administer an anesthetic. You won’t feel any pain during the procedure.
If you’re concerned about pain during the procedure, ask your doctor about being sedated.
What to Expect After a Spine Injection
After your spine injection, you’ll rest in a recovery area. You’ll need someone to give you a ride home from your appointment, especially if you were sedated. Then, most patients go back to their regular daily routine immediately.
It will take a few days for the injection to reach full effect, though the numbing agent used during your procedure will provide immediate pain relief. You should feel the full effects of the steroids within 2–5 days after your treatment.
How Long Do Spinal Injections Last?
Spinal injections can be a long-term treatment, lasting up to a year for some candidates. In some cases, though, these treatments last only a few months.
How Many Times Can You Get Spine Injections?
Most doctors recommend getting only three spinal injections per year. This is because getting steroid injections too often can throw your natural hormone production off balance.
How Often Can You Get Spine Injections?
Most doctors recommend getting spine injections at least one and a half months apart. But remember: you should only have up to three rounds of steroid injections per year.
Get Spine Treatments at Denver’s Neurosurgery One
Steroid injections may provide long-term relief from your spinal pain. The procedure is quick, painless, and has little to no downtime. If you are interested in finding out if spinal injections are the pain treatment right for your spinal condition, schedule an initial spinal pain consultation at Neurosurgery One.