Chronic pain can sometimes present a challenge to patient and doctor alike. Although the layperson may think the only treatments for this pain are narcotic pain medications and surgery, this is far from the case.
One of the best conservative treatments for pain is the use of injections. In fact, injections can ease pain, prevent surgery, and solve the problem before more aggressive actions are taken.
Although injections are invasive, they are not as risky as surgery, and they often provide relief in numbers commensurate with surgical procedures.
Injections for pain relief come in a variety of different types, and they are usually tailored to your specific problem. For instance, steroid injections for back pain are typically of the epidural variety, or injected into the membranes around the spinal cord.
This treatment modality tends to fall into three general categories: steroid injections, nerve blockage, and Botox. Your doctor may have different injections and a different approach to them, but these three are the most common.
The most common type of injection is a steroid injection. Steroids are actually naturally occurring substances in the body. Their primary action is to relieve inflammation that is caused by tissue injury.
This inflammation is a signal to the body to send chemicals to the site for repair. Unfortunately, the influx of these chemicals can sometimes lead to pain because the site swells. One way to help relieve the pain of this swelling is to inject the steroids directly into the area that is inflamed.
These injections are used for almost every type of pain condition. For instance, if you are having problems with your knee, the steroid can be injected directly into the joint.
It will decrease pain, decrease inflammation, and hopefully, lead to quicker healing of the problem that caused the inflammation. For back pain, this injection can be used on the facet joints, but it is most commonly injected into the epidural space, or the membranes that contain the spinal cord. This can decrease the inflammation of tissue that impinges on a nerve, and it will cause pain relief.
A nerve blockade can occur in a number of ways. One common method is to directly inject an anesthetic, usually lidocaine, into the area that is causing pain. This will cause numbness to all of the areas that the nerve serves, and it is generally enough to treat pain.
Unfortunately, nerve blockades from injections tend to wear off rather quickly. You may need to get several injections into the area for the pain to go away, and you will likely need to have the injections every few months to stay pain free.
Nerve blockade injections are often used in conjunction with steroids. The medications are mixed together in the syringe and injected into the problem area. This provides the instant pain relief from the blockade and the long term inflammation reduction of steroids.
Often, doctors will use ultrasound technology to ensure that the proper nerve is targeted and the surrounding tissues are safe. This is another type of medication that can be introduced into the epidural space to help control back pain that is nerve related.
One of the newest treatments by injection is the use of Botox. Many are familiar with this chemical through its use in plastic surgery techniques. It is actually the toxin of a bacteria strain, and it can cause severe health problems if it is injected directly into the blood stream. However, when it is applied to painful areas, it can help to reduce pain.
Botox makes your muscles relax. It effectively paralyzes them. This is a helpful side effect when you are having pain caused by muscle spasticity, such as post-stroke or with back spasms.
The Botox is injected directly into the muscle in spasm, and it helps them to relax. Again, this is another treatment that tends to wear off over time. You will likely need injections of Botox every few months to decrease the spasticity of the muscles. However, you will have better range of motion in the muscle and less pain due to the paralysis of the muscles in the area.
Injections: What to Expect
The thought of an injection is sometimes enough to make a patient anxious. It can be intimidating to imagine a large needle entering your joint space, and this can cause some patients to avoid injections entirely. Luckily, they are not quite as scary as they sound.
The surface that will receive the injection is typically numbed with a topical agent, such as a cold numbing spray. The uncomfortable part only lasts for a few minutes, and it generally is best if you are relaxed while receiving the treatment.
You should focus on finding ways to distract yourself from the needle and the procedure. Try not to look directly at the needle, and take deep breaths to calm yourself. If the injection procedure is very involved, such as with an epidural injection, you can ask the doctor to give you a minor sedative to help you relax.
Focus on working out the tension in your limbs, and breathe out forcefully when the needle is inserted. This often makes the pain less intense.
If you are having chronic pain, you need to see the professionals at SoCal Pain Center. We are experts in pain medication, and we can help you with the various injections that can control your pain. Contact us for a consultation.