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Epidural injection for chronic pain relief

3-minute read

This page will give you information about an epidural injection for chronic pain relief. If you have any questions, you should ask your GP or other relevant health professional.

What is an epidural injection?

An epidural injection involves injecting local anaesthetics and steroids into the epidural space (an area near your spinal cord). This numbs your nerves to give pain relief in certain areas of your body.

How does an epidural injection work?

A needle is inserted in the epidural space, near your spinal cord. Local anaesthetics and steroids are injected through the needle into the epidural space.

The local anaesthetics numb the nerves to give pain relief. The steroids reduce inflammation and may make the pain relief last longer.

What types of epidural injection are available?

The type of epidural injection depends on where it is given.

Illustration showing different types of epidural injections.
Different types of epidural injection.

What are the benefits of an epidural injection?

An epidural injection can give you short-term pain relief, allowing you to move around more easily.

What does the procedure involve?

An epidural injection usually takes 15 to 30 minutes. Your doctor may use an x-ray to guide them while they give the injection.

Your doctor will carefully insert the needle for the epidural injection.

The healthcare team will monitor you closely during and after the injection.

What complications can happen?

Some complications can be serious and can even cause death.

  • failure of the epidural
  • worsening pain
  • low blood pressure
  • headache
  • backache
  • temporary leg or arm weakness
  • seizures
  • difficulty passing urine
  • unexpected high block, if the local anaesthetic spreads beyond the intended area
  • infection around your spine
  • short-term nerve injury
  • visual disturbance or loss of vision
  • long-term nerve injury
  • blood clot around your spine
  • paralysis

How soon will I recover?

Most people feel completely normal after the procedure. After a short while you should be able to go home.

Summary

An epidural injection can be used for most people, usually giving a safe and effective form of pain relief.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION
The operation and treatment information on this page is published under license by Healthdirect Australia from EIDO Healthcare Australia and is protected by copyright laws. Other than for your personal, non-commercial use, you may not copy, print out, download or otherwise reproduce any of the information. The information should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

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Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: September 2019


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