Epidural Steroid Injections Can Give Temporary Relief From Chronic Back Pain—But Sometimes With a Price

For people suffering from chronic back pain after a car or slip and fall accident, epidural steroid injections can provide temporary pain relief. This relief may allow them to do physical therapy exercises that could otherwise be too painful but can help strengthen the injured area of the back and provide more long-term pain relief. However, epidural steroid injections can only be given infrequently and have potential side effects.

Complications Can Occur From the Injection or the Steroid Medication

As with any procedure, there are potential complications associated with epidural steroid injections. These problems include the following:


Most infections are relatively minor, but in rare cases, a person could suffer a serious infection.


This complication is more likely for people who have an underlying bleeding disorder.

Dural puncture

This is caused when the needle goes in too deeply and causes a puncture to the dura—the tissue that surrounds the spinal cord and nerve roots. When this happens, spinal fluid can leak out and cause a spinal headache. While the headache often goes away on its own within a few days, a person could need a blood patch to help seal the hole.

Nerve damage

This can be caused due to trauma from the needle, bleeding, or infection.

In addition to the complications associated with the injection procedure, a patient can suffer problems from the steroid medication. The number of injections is usually limited because the steroids can weaken a person’s spine and nearby muscles. The risk for this increases with the number of injections given. Other possible side effects include:

  • A temporary decrease in the immune system
  • High blood sugar
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Severe arthritis in the hips
  • Cataracts

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