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Learning About a Cervical Epidural Injection

Cervical vertebrae

What is a cervical epidural steroid injection?

A cervical epidural steroid injection is a shot of medicine into the area around the spinal cord in your neck. You may get it to help with pain, tingling, or numbness in your neck, shoulder, or arm. It may have a steroid to reduce swelling and pain and a local anesthetic to numb the nerves.

How is a cervical epidural steroid injection done?

The doctor will use a tiny needle to numb the skin where you are getting the injection.

After the skin is numb, your doctor will use a larger needle for the epidural injection. X-ray or ultrasound may be used to help guide the needle. You may feel some pressure. But you should not feel pain.

How long does an epidural steroid injection take?

The procedure will take 5 to 15 minutes. You will go home about an hour later.

What can you expect after a cervical epidural steroid injection?

If your injection included local anesthetic medicine, your neck, shoulder, arm, or hand may feel heavy or numb right after the shot.

With a local anesthetic, your pain may be gone right away. But it may return after a few hours. This is because the steroid hasn't started working yet. Before the steroid starts to work, your neck, shoulder, or arm may be sore for a few days.

These injections don't always work. When they do, it takes 1 to 5 days. The pain relief can last for several days to a few months or longer.

Some people are dizzy or feel sick to their stomach after getting this shot. These symptoms usually don't last very long.

You may want to do less than normal for a few days. But you may also be able to return to your daily routine.

If your pain is better, you may be able to keep doing your normal activities or physiotherapy. But try not to overdo it, even if your pain has improved a lot. If your pain is only a little better or if it comes back, your doctor may want you to get another injection in a few weeks. If your pain has not changed, talk to your doctor about other treatment choices.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

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