Epidural steroid injections are commonly used for the treatment of back pain. It injects a powerful anti-inflammatory with a local anesthetic pain relief medicine directly around the spinal nerves, providing immediate pain relief. However, even the best drugs in the world are not without the dreadful side effects. Side effects from epidural steroid injections are rare but not uncommon. No more than 3 doses of treatment should be given within a 12 months period with each treatment spaced at least 2 months apart from each other.
Infections occurring are rare nowadays due to the advanced technique and the usage of sterile needles. They are extremely unusual, occurring only less than 0.5%. However, patients suffering from diabetes are at a higher risk.
Bleeding is also unusual and patients who are suffering from bleeding disorders or taking blood thinning medications are not allowed to be given epidural steroid injections. Their spinal cord can be compressed and could lead to serious consequences, possibly even death.
- Dural tears
It is a very common side effect which occurs in 1% to 2% of all reported cases. The dural is accidentally punctured with the needle and results in the patient suffering from headache. The needle punctured dural reduces the amount of cerebrospinal fluid pressure which in turns causes a spinal headache and is improved when the patient lies down. It will usually go away by itself in a couple of days.
- Nerve damage
It is an extremely rare side effect but has been reported. The injection needle injures the spinal nerves which are compressed, resulting in either temporary or worse permanent damage.
- Blood sugar
Blood sugar levels especially in patients suffering from diabetes have been reported.
- Allergy reaction
Patients have reported to be allergic to the medication present in the injection and this is normally due to the preservative in the medication and not with the active ingredient itself.
- Weakening of muscles
Steroid myopathy which is effectively the weakening of thigh muscles has been reported. Cases are rare.
- Facial redness
Occasionally, patients have reported to suffer from facial redness after the injection. The effects usually subside in a couple of hours, at most a few days and are not serious.
Patients have also reported having low grade fever after injection and this is due to the body’s natural defence mechanism reacting with the steroid. It is nothing serious and will go away on this own.
Long term side effects from epidural steroid injections are uncommon and the side effects are usually non critical, however do not be complacent and always seek the help of a qualified medical practitioner if any complication arises.