Having an injection in your spine can be a frightening idea
Having an injection in your spine can be a frightening idea. However, the techniques have been developed to ensure that this is as safe as possible and painless for the patient. All spinal injections are performed in a sterile environment, using the facilities of operating theatre. This allows accurate placement of the needle using a C-arm (low dose x-ray machine).
They can be used to help diagnose where pain is coming from, or to treat pain, or both. For example, if a person is suffering from pain in the leg and an MRI scan shows that several levels (discs and/or joints) in the back are damaged, a local anaesthetic injection at the point where just one nerve leaves the spine, would tell if that is indeed the source of pain.
Most spinal injections are performed using steroids. The aim of this is to suppress the inflammation which causes a lot of the pain and which is often responsible for “switching off” the muscles which normally support the spine. By reducing this inflammation, the muscles can be made to work again, using the right physiotherapy techniques and the patient should get good relief, long after the injections wear off.
If a patient has a steroid injection and gets a good result, but the pain returns after a few weeks, it is worth considering radio-frequency (RF) treatment. This is another needle technique, but, instead of injecting through the needle, a radio-frequency probe is inserted to the necessary point. This is then connected to a pulse generator, which makes the tip of the probe vibrate at a very precise frequency and intensity. This vibration can be used either to heat the tissue and thereby kill off areas causing damage, or to pulse the treatment to assist healing. RF has been used for many years in the management of spinal pain and other related problems. The same technique is used in the functional neurosurgery in the brain, to treat Parkinson’s disease and other conditions.