Herniated Disc – Cortisone Injections

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by admin on February 4, 2013

Cortisone injections are growing in popularity as a way to treat herniated disc. First off let’s explain and define cortisone and herniated disc. Many patients and back pain sufferers might be unfamiliar with the terms. The bones that form the human spine are surrounded by discs. These discs are designed to soften the effect of any impact on human back. Discs help to protect the spine and keep it flexible and healthy. Medical condition known as herniated disc occurs when the disc is damaged. It is also commonly known as slipped or ruptured disc. The condition can occur in any part of the spine. However, most often uncomfortable disc damage and uncomfortable pain that accompanies it is limited to lower back. This area constantly and relentlessly absorbs the impact of holding the weight of the upper body. Lower back is also heavily involved in body’s daily movement. All the twists and turns, lifting and bending can take significant tool on the lower back especially as we age. Pain from most minor disc herniation isn’t serious and usually heals within short period of time. Most often it takes several weeks. Simple steps can help with dealing with the pain. Massage, ice packs, changing the mattress, over the counter pain medicine or just simply staying physically active are some of the ways to face this common medical condition. However when the pain persists and is unbearable and constant patients are forced to seek doctor’s help. In back pain management surgery and cortisone injections are becoming more common and popular. The latter method is more popular and is used when swelling, inflammation and redness are the occurring problems. An epidural steroid injection (ESI), as it is also referred to, is usually for patients with severe pain. Only about one in ten patients with herniated disc require surgery.

Human body has many powerful ways of providing us and medical science community with many cures that occur naturally. Cortisone is one of them. It is steroid that is produced by human body. The substance is released from adrenal gland when the body is experiencing stress. Cortisone in its natural environment is let go into the blood stream. The substance is normally short acting. That changes with synthetically produced cortisone. In this case the substance is active for days instead of minutes. Additionally, it is not injected into the patient’s blood system. Cortisone is injected into specific area where inflammation occurs. Common misconception among back pain sufferers is that injection is directly responsible for fighting the pain. That’s not the case. Cortisone is anti-inflammatory medication. It is designed and used to reduce and eliminate inflammation. After injection when redness goes away only then the pain subsides. The effects of the injection can last up to several weeks giving patients much needed pain relief.

Before taking the shot patients have to be aware of possible side effects. Fortunately cortisone is substance that naturally present and occurs in our bodies. Therefore patients do not have to fear of allergic reaction to the substance itself. However, some people may experience rash on their skin. This is due to betadine. This substance is used by physicians to clean and sterilize the skin before injecting cortisone. Allergic reaction from betadine occurs very rarely. More common is side effect known as ‘cortisone flare’. It occurs when injected cortisone crystallizes. In some cases it can cause extreme pain that can last to up two days. Patients also reported whitening of the skin. The condition is not as harmful but nevertheless patients need to be aware of it. As with all injections infection might be an issue. This is specifically true if the shot is given in into a joint. Additional complications also include bone deterioration, joint infection and nerve damage. Before first injection patients need to consult and inform the doctor about any blood thinners that they might be taking. It is necessary that these medication need to be put away at least few days prior to injection. Same approach should be used towards any nutritional supplements that have blood thinning effect. Generally doctors agree that cortisone injection is fairly low risk method of eliminating back pain.

Once the patient along with the doctor decide to undergo steroid injection it is important to continue the procedure for about 4 to 6 weeks. It is also mandatory to have the injection every 7 to 10 days. According to Dr. Michael Cronin from Pain Institute in Louisville, KY the treatment is most effective when done in that time span. Dr. Cronin, along with many other professionals in medical field, argues that this is ideally ultimate time frame when the steroids work effectively. He states that cortisone quickly and completely wears off after about one week. The effectiveness of epidural steroid injection varies greatly. According to the study of the Midwest Spine Institute roughly one in two patients that received cortisone shot reported that treatment had been successful. On the other hand people that went through surgery had about 95% rate of rapid decrease in pain. Medical community is somehow divided if it comes to the effectiveness of the procedure. However, epidural steroid injection serves its purpose. By hormone injections it helps thousands of people avoid much more risky surgery.

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