Epidurals: An important tool to manage pain

Health
Man with back pain

Chronic pain can be debilitating, making it difficult to participate in everyday activities such as going to work, exercising or enjoying time with family.

For some people, epidurals – commonly referred to as cortisone shots – can bring long-lasting relief and offer a chance to address the underlying cause of the pain.

Dr. Channing Willoughby, who specializes in pain management at Tidelands NextStep Pain Management Services at Murrells Inlet, says patients should be evaluated by a specialist to identify the root cause of their pain before pursuing epidural therapy.

“If possible, it’s best to address the pain through physical therapy or other types of medications,” he says. “But those options aren’t viable for some people.”

For example, he says, pain can be so severe that patients are unable to participate in physical therapy.

Epidurals help relieve the pain by reducing inflammation. The medication is typically injected into the tissue around the spine to treat pain in the neck, back, and extremities.

While cortisone is the most commonly known steroid, Dr. Willoughby says his practice has found the greatest efficacy with another type of anti-inflammatory called Depo-Medrol.

Relief typically isn’t permanent, but usually continues for several months, Dr. Willoughby says. During that period, he suggests patients try to address the cause of the pain.

“For many people, if they re-engage in an active lifestyle during the course of treatment, there’s a good chance the pain won’t come back,” Dr. Willoughby says. “Through comprehensive treatment, there might not be a need for further injections.”

Still, for some people, such as individuals with severe degenerative spine conditions, the pain may recur. In those cases, surgery or other approaches may be only option to address the problem and prevent the pain from returning, Dr. Willoughby says.

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