Are Epidural Cortisone Injections for Sciatica From Herniated Disc Beneficial?

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What causes a herniated disc?

The discs of the spine are located between the vertebrae (bony building blocks of the spine). The disc is designed somewhat like a jelly donut being composed of an inner gelatin-like core (the nucleus pulposus) surrounded by a firm outer ring (the annulus fibrosus).

When the disc structure wears, because of processes such as aging or trauma, it becomes weakened and susceptible to injury. In this condition, stresses on the spine can cause the inner core to protrude outward through the boundary of the disc's outer ring. The is referred to as herniation of the disc.

Disc herniation can directly press upon the spinal cord and/or adjacent nerve tissues resulting in pain which radiates outward from the spine in the distribution of the affected nerve. When the disc herniation is in the spine of the lower back, it can cause a radiating pain down the legs, commonly referred to as sciatica.

Picture of a herniated lumbar disc
Picture of a herniated lumbar disc

A majority of patients with sciatica from disc herniation have resolution of their pain with various conservative measures, including anti-inflammatory and muscle-relaxant medications, exercises, physical therapy, and time. However, some 10%-15% of affected patients require surgical procedures to relieve the pain.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/12/2016

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