The lumbar region of the spine can be one of the most aggravating places to experience chronic pain. People try many different treatments to find relief to pain in their lower back. One common treatment that many people find effective for them is the use of a lumbar epidural. How does a lumbar epidural work? In order to best understand how a lumbar epidural works, we first have to look at the anatomy and physiology of the lumbar spine.
What is the Lumbar Region?
Located just above the tailbone and below the ribs, the lumbar section is made up of five separate vertebrae. These individual bones are able to act as a unit thanks to the cartilaginous discs located between them. These discs serve as cushions, absorbing the pressure that is caused by any movement. Even the simple act of walking put some pressure on the lumbar spine and vertebral discs. Typically, these disks hold up very well under the pressure. However, there are certain occasions in which these cushions do not do their job as well as they should. when this happens, we typically see pain and swelling around a specific section of the lumbar region of the back.
Problems With the Lumbar Region
Many people feel at least some pain in their lower back every now and then. This makes sense, as we have already discussed how much the lumbar region is used. Real problems can begin to develop, though, when excessive strain is put on this region of the body. This can be something as simple as performing a heavyweight exercise with poor form, packing up a box and moving it by lifting it and twisting at the same time, or just having bad sitting posture for too long. As time goes by, these discs wear out. This leads to friction between the lumbar vertebrae, causing pain and swelling. Because the back is constantly being used, we typically do not give our back enough rest to heal properly from such an injury. This means that over time, this injury will only get worse and worse.
In other cases, lumbar pain is caused to buy an autoimmune disorder. In these cases, the body attacks itself as it would a virus. This can cause the same swelling, pain, and general inflammation that we see. Regardless of the exact cause of the swelling and pain, this inflammation makes it difficult to engage in simple, routine daily tasks.
How Epidurals can Help
An epidural is a procedure in which we inject a small amount of localized pain reliever or steroids into a specifically targeted spot in the back. Before we perform a lumbar epidural, we first have to identify the exact location that you are feeling pain. Once the target is found, we can inject a small needle into the epidural area, or the space between the vertebrae just before the spinal cord. This injection can help to reduce swelling and pain in the region affected. for some people, a single lumbar epidural treatment is enough to relieve the pain and reduce the swelling for years. For other people, more regular treatments are needed to keep the pain and swelling away.
Do you think a lumbar epidural would help you? Schedule an appointment with Dr. Grimm so that we can discuss how we can help manage your pain.
Matthew Grimm, MD