Degenerative disc disease, a condition that results in chronic pain and discomfort from a damaged spinal disc, is commonly treated with nonsurgical methods. Some of the nonsurgical methods of treatment include medication, back education, the use of heating pads or ice packs, physical exercises and more, according to Medscape. A patient with degenerative disc disease may also be given a steroid injection as a therapeutic form of treatment for the condition. The two types of spinal steroid injections used for degenerative disc disease are epidural steroid injections and intradiscal steroid injections.
Epidural steroid injections are used to fight inflammation caused by a damaged spinal disc. The injections, which are the most common type of steroid injection, consist of cortisone and a local anesthetic, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. In an epidural steroid injection, the steroid is injected near the dura, which is “the sac around the nerve roots that contains cerebrospinal fluid (the fluid that the nerve roots are bathed in),” according to Spine Health. In addition to treating inflammation of the disc region, the injections are also thought to “flush out” inflammatory proteins that build up in the affected area.
According to Spine Health, epidural steroid injections are beneficial to approximately half of all patients who receive them. Both epidural steroid injections and intradiscal steroid injections, which are inserted directly into the affected discs, were found to be beneficial for some patients who suffered from both chronic low back pain and degenerative disc disease in a 2004 study. The study also found that “spinal steroid injections are more effective in patients with MRI findings of discogenic inflammation.”
Spine Health also reports that there are a few risks associated with spinal steroid injections. These risks include possible damage to a nerve root, the possibility of a wet tap (in which the needle has penetrated the dural sac) and a possible infection in the epidural space.