Is an epidural in the neck painful?

Answered by Jason Smith

An epidural injection in the neck, also known as a cervical epidural steroid injection, is a minimally invasive procedure performed to relieve pain and inflammation in the neck region. While the term “injection” can often evoke fear and anxiety, I can assure you that the procedure is typically not as painful as it may seem.

To begin with, the procedure is performed in an office setting under advanced X-ray guidance, ensuring precise needle placement. This allows the healthcare provider to accurately target the source of pain and administer the steroid medication directly to the affected area. The use of X-ray guidance also helps minimize any potential risks or complications.

During the procedure, you will be positioned comfortably on an examination table, and the healthcare provider will clean and numb the area where the needle will be inserted. This initial numbing process can cause a brief pinch or stinging sensation, which is typically well-tolerated by most individuals.

Once the area is numb, a thin needle is inserted into the epidural space in the neck, which is the area around the spinal cord and nerve roots. The needle placement is guided by fluoroscopy, a real-time X-ray imaging technique. While you may feel some pressure or slight discomfort during the insertion of the needle, it is usually not described as painful.

After the needle is properly positioned, a small amount of contrast dye may be injected to confirm correct needle placement and ensure the medication will reach the intended area. This dye injection may cause a temporary warm sensation or mild discomfort, but it typically subsides quickly.

Once the needle placement is confirmed, the healthcare provider will inject a mixture of a local anesthetic and a corticosteroid medication into the epidural space. The local anesthetic provides immediate pain relief, while the corticosteroid helps reduce inflammation and provides longer-term pain relief. You may feel some pressure or a sense of fullness during the injection, but it is generally not described as painful.

After the injection, the needle is removed, and a small bandage is applied to the injection site. You will then be monitored for a short period to ensure there are no immediate complications or adverse reactions to the medication.

It is important to note that the level of discomfort experienced during an epidural injection can vary from person to person. Some individuals may report feeling minimal pain or discomfort, while others may experience slightly more discomfort. Factors such as individual pain tolerance, anxiety, and the specific condition being treated can influence the overall experience.

I understand that the fear of pain can be a significant concern when considering any medical procedure. However, it is important to keep in mind that the potential benefits of an epidural steroid injection, such as long-lasting pain relief, can outweigh the temporary discomfort experienced during the procedure.

In my personal experience as a healthcare provider, I have witnessed many patients who were initially anxious about the procedure but found it to be much less painful than anticipated. It is also worth noting that the relief obtained from an epidural steroid injection can last for months to more than a year, providing a significant improvement in quality of life for individuals suffering from neck pain.

While an epidural injection in the neck may cause some temporary discomfort or pressure, it is generally not described as painful. The use of advanced X-ray guidance and the administration of local anesthetics help minimize any potential pain during the procedure. The long-lasting pain relief achieved from an epidural steroid injection can greatly outweigh the brief discomfort experienced during the injection process.