How effective are epidural steroid injections?

Pain perception and response are very individualized. Research to determine the effectiveness of these treatments in the lumbar spine has shown average success rates between 50 percent and 90 percent.

Many factors influence the effectiveness of Epidural Steroid Injections. With the use of fluoroscopy and contrast enhancement, transforaminal epidural glucocorticoid (steroid) injections have shown long-term success rates ranging from 75 percent to 84 percent for treatment of herniated discs.

Research has shown that the sooner you get an injection for the pain, the better the outcome may be. Generally, patients who have had back pain symptoms for less than 3 months have average success rates of 90 percent. For patients who have had radiculopathy symptoms for less than 6 months, the response rate averaged 70 percent. In patients who suffered with these symptoms for over 1 year, the average response has been about 50 percent. So, the chances of complete pain relief may be less for those who have suffered with the pain for a long period than for those who seek treatment earlier. Since pain and response to treatment are very individualized, it still can be worthwhile to get an injection to see if it works for you.

Studies have also noted pain relief in patients who received epidural steroid injections in the hips, shoulders, and knees. These injections can provide relief for several weeks and may have a synergistic effect when used in conjunction with exercise or physical therapy programs.

How long pain relief will last varies with each patient. The immediate effect is usually from the local anesthetic injected. This wears off in a few hours. The steroid usually starts working sometime within the first weeks afterwards, and pain relief can last for weeks, or even months.