What to Know About Cervical Epidural Steroid Injection

A cervical epidural steroid injection (cervical ESI) is an injection of anti-inflammatory medicine — a steroid or corticosteroid — into the epidural space around the spinal nerves in your neck.

The main goal of cervical epidural steroid injections is to help manage chronic pain caused by irritation and inflammation of the spinal nerve roots in your neck (the cervical region of your spine) due to certain conditions or injuries. This type of chronic pain is called cervical radiculopathy, which can radiate down from your neck to your shoulders, arms and/or hands.

“Cervical” comes from the Latin word “cervix,” which means “neck.” In the case of cervical ESIs, the injection is in your neck, not your cervix. The cervix, the narrow passage forming the lower end of the uterus, is called so because it’s a neck-like passage.

Cervical epidural steroid injections are used to treat cervical radiculopathy, a type of chronic pain caused by inflammation and irritation of the spinal nerve roots in the neck.

Cervical radiculopathy can be caused by a variety of disorders that irritate your spinal nerve roots in your neck, including:

Cervical Herniated Disk 

A slipped, ruptured, or bulging disk is another name for this ailment. One of the most prevalent reasons of neck pain is a herniated disc. Disks have a harder outer layer and a soft, gel-like interior. The outer layer degrades and cracks over time. When the inner substance of a disk between two vertebrae in your neck pushes through a crack, it's called a cervical herniated disk. The leaking material may press against neighboring spinal nerves, pinching them.

Cervical Degenerative Disk Disease 

The padding between the vertebrae in your neck continues to wear away, resulting in this ailment. Local irritation in your spinal nerve roots could be caused by a deteriorated disk.

Cervical Osteoarthritis 

The usual wear-and-tear of aging causes changes to the bones, disks, and joints in your neck, resulting in this ailment. Cervical osteoarthritis can cause inflammation and irritation of the nerves by narrowing the interior of your spinal column in your neck or the openings where spinal nerves emerge.

Cervical Spinal Stenosis 

The narrowing of one or more gaps within your cervical spine causes this disorder (your neck). The quantity of space available for your spinal nerve roots decreases as your spine shrinks. Nerves can get inflamed or pinched as a result of a compressed area, resulting in neck pain.

Benefits of Cervical Epidural Steroid Injections

The following are some of the benefits of cervical epidural steroid injections:

  • You might get some respite from the pain for a while.

  • You may be able to participate in rehabilitation activities to help treat the cause of your neck discomfort if you have enough pain relief.

  • Because of the pain reduction, you may have a higher quality of life and be able to undertake more daily activities.

  • Cervical epidural steroid injections may lessen the need for more invasive pain treatment procedures such as surgery.

Risks and Complications of Epidural Steroid Injections 

Although cervical epidural steroid injections are generally safe, they can carry the risk of some problems and side effects. The following are some of the dangers and consequences associated with all types of ESI injections, but they are uncommon:

  • Low blood pressure might make you feel dizzy and lightheaded.

  • A significant headache is being experienced as a result of spinal fluid leakage.

  • An epidural abscess, discitis, osteomyelitis, or meningitis can occur as a result of the epidural operation.

  • Experiencing side effects from the drugs, such as hot flushes or a rash.

  • If a blood artery is mistakenly injured during the injection, bleeding may occur, potentially resulting in a hematoma or blood clot.

  • Inadvertent injection into a blood vessel causes strokes in the spinal cord, brain stem, and/or cerebellum.

Prognosis for Cervical Epidural Steroid Injection 

The majority of persons who receive a cervical epidural steroid injection report at least partial pain alleviation. Some folks, on the other hand, do not feel any pain relief.

A cervical epidural steroid injection is used to offer appropriate short-term pain relief so that you can begin or continue physical therapy or postpone more intense pain management methods. By strengthening the muscles that support your spine, physical therapy may aid in long-term pain reduction.

If a cervical ESI works for you and relieves your discomfort, your doctor may suggest another injection in the future. Most clinicians, however, limit patients to two to three cervical ESIs per year.