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Back Pain? Sciatica? Spinal Injections May Be Another Option

Veteran's with back pain

My last article discussed non-invasive treatments for back pain and sciatica. Those treatments can provide relief for many of us and worked on me for quite some time. Unfortunately, my lumbar and sacral pain has now reached the point where I can no longer just “suck it up.”

I have lived with lower back pain for over 40 years, but the addition of sciatica has taken this to a whole new level. It appears my “warranty” has run out—and just like with a car, that is when everything starts to go south!

The NMES (neuro-muscular electronic stimulation) belt that I discussed in my last article is no longer enough by itself to provide me relief.

I wanted to explore what other treatments are available before I consider actual back surgery (fusion of my spine at L4-L5). After consulting with a neurosurgeon several years ago, he told me I did not need him because I walked into his office.

“When you crawl into my office, that’s when you will need me,” my neurosurgeon said. He then showed me a spine model with rods on each side of L4-L5, stating I may eventually need this.

My primary doctor recommended I make an appointment with Dr. Maxey at USA Spine. After reviewing my MRIs, examining me, and discussing my situation, she recommended spinal injections.

Understand that this is a pain management procedure, not a cure!

The procedure in my case was Bilateral Lumbar Transforaminal Epidural Steroid Injections at Lumbar 4/5 and Sacral 1.

This procedure is not as bad as it sounds!

You have the option of having general or local anesthesia. Several of the patients that day selected general anesthesia. However, I chose the local, consisting of injections of lidocaine at each of the four epidural injection sites.

Anyone who has had lidocaine injections knows this is the worst part. It’s that jab, followed by the burning sensation. After lidocaine injections, you only feel minor pressure as the doctor guides the needle by X-ray to the precise location for steroid (dexamethasone) injection.

They place a Band-Aid over each injection site, and you are done! The whole procedure took less than 15 minutes. I spent more time on the paperwork than I did on the procedure.

I felt some minor immediate relief in my lumbar region. However, there was no immediate relief for the sciatica. I was advised relief might take 48 hours initially and up to a couple of weeks for more consistent results.

As I write this, I am 1 week post injections and have positive results in both areas. It is still more noticeable in the lumbar region, but the sciatica has some relief. I still have good and bad days, but the good days are becoming more frequent.

The doctor told me I could have these injections two-to-three times per year and plan to follow that regimen until such time as I need to try something more aggressive.

I had an appointment yesterday at the VA neurology clinic, and they have scheduled another MRI of my back with a follow-up with a neurosurgeon to determine possible ways ahead in treating my back issues.

Following Dr. Maxey’s advice, I’ll actively seek other opinions to ensure I thoroughly understand all options before considering the dreaded fusion.

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. These are my individual experiences, provided as a reference to assist you in dealing with this all-too-common problem. Please consult with your medical professional.


EDITOR’S NOTE: Richard Corson is a FireWatch Magazine Health & Wellness Contributor.


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