Drugs, Medications, and Spinal Injections for Spinal Stenosis

Reviewed by Jason M. Highsmith, MD

Depending on the severity of your lumbar (low back) or cervical (neck) spinal stenosis, your doctor may recommend an over-the-counter (OTC) medication to help relieve inflammation and pain. However, if an OTC drug does not provide good pain management, a prescription medication may be provided.

Quick OTC facts:

Prescription Medications May Help Relieve Your Neck or Back Pain
If you've taken over-the-counter medications but are still experiencing spinal stenosis-related pain, your doctor may recommend prescription medications to combat your pain. Prescription-strength NSAIDs are a common prescription medication used to control spinal stenosis pain.

Spinal Injections are a Pain Management Option for Treatment of Spinal Stenosis
Moderate to severe pain and symptoms related to spinal stenosis may be managed by a pain management specialist who is trained in spinal injection therapies under fluoroscopy (real time x-ray). He/she may inject a corticosteroid (steroid) medication into the space(s) around specific nerve roots.

An epidural steroid injection delivers the corticosteroid medication into the epidural space, where the targeted nerve root(s) is located. A corticosteroid is a strong anti-inflammatory drug that help to relieve swelling of soft tissues that may be impinging on one or more nerve roots. Furthermore, by reducing inflammation at the source, pain and symptoms felt in the body's extremities (eg, leg, arm) may be reduced too. The epidural injection may provide total and permanent relief—or it may reduce your pain for several weeks to several months.

Corticosteroids can be especially helpful in treating pain that radiates down the back of your leg. Many people report almost immediate relief from the injections. But corticosteroids can have significant side effects. These are rare, but you should know and discuss the risks with your doctor.

Potential side effects of an epidural corticosteroid spinal injection include:

After an epidural injection, call your doctor immediately if you:

Because of these potential serious side effects, most doctors limit the number of injections a patient receives. The actual number of injections a patient receives is determined by many factors. Be sure to talk through this issue with your doctor.

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