Injections are a nonsurgical treatment option for acute or chronic neck or back pain. They are considered to treat spinal pain after other nonsurgical measures such as medications and/or physical therapy have been tried, but before surgery is considered. Injections can provide pain relief and help determine the source of a patient’s pain.
Injections can deliver medication directly to the anatomic location that generates pain, which may provide more neck or back pain relief than oral medications. Injections for neck and/or back pain may work in one of the following ways:
- Deliver a steroid and/or other pain-relieving medication into the area that is the source of pain to reduce inflammation and numb the pain.
- Create a heat lesion (radiofrequency ablation) on a pain-transmitting nerve to prevent it from sending pain signals to the brain.
Injections can also be used to help determine the anatomic structure in the spine that could potentially be the source of pain, such as a herniated disc or a compressed nerve.
Diagnostic injections typically deliver an anesthetic medication near the suspected source of pain, such as a facet joint or a spinal nerve. If temporary pain relief is achieved until the effect of the local anesthetic wears off, it can be inferred that the specific region is the source of the pain. When considered in conjunction with a patient's history, physical exam, and imaging studies, diagnostic injections can help guide further treatment.
The term “regenerative medicine” refers to a group of therapies aimed at manipulating the body’s own natural ability to heal itself to repair or replace damaged tissue. This is all done in order to avoid having surgery to repair the problem. The basic theory is by injecting a substance at the location of injury and creating inflammation, new cellular growth will help fix the injury. There have been two major improvements that have led to this field of medicine gaining popularity. First, the ability to harness patient-specific injection material (such as in platelet rich plasma injections) provides better treatment options. Second, injections can be done under real-time ultrasound guidance to confirm the material was delivered to the intended target. Prior to this technology, injections were delivered blindly in the general area of injury. Currently modalities such as prolotherapy, PRP, stem cell treatments and placental tissue matrix (PTM) have shown some promise in joints and muscles of the arms and legs.
To date, these effects have not been as promising in the spine and many of these treatments are still considered experimental when it comes to spine applications. The spine team at McKinley Orthopedics, Sports Medicine and Spine are open to discussing all options when it comes to your back or neck health and willing to work with you to develop the right treatment plan for you.