Cervical Epidural Injection: Your Experience

For certain types of neck pain, your doctor may suggest a cervical epidural injection. During this procedure, medicine is injected deep into your neck near your spine. The injection helps the doctor find the source of your pain. It can also help relieve your pain and soreness either temporarily or more permanently. However, it can be associated with serious complications.

The injection can be done in your doctor's office, but it is sometimes done in a hospital or surgery center. You’ll be asked to fill out some forms, including a consent form. You may also be examined.

Before you agree to this procedure, ask these questions:

  • Why do I need this procedure?

  • Are there any alternatives?

  • How many times have you done this procedure?

  • What are the complications?

  • When will I see the results?

  • Will the drug in this injection interact with other medicines I am taking?

If you don't feel comfortable asking these questions, ask a family member or friend to come with you to ask them. The answers are critical to your health and safety.

Getting ready for your treatment

  • Before treatment, tell your doctor what medicines you take. This includes aspirin. Ask whether you should stop taking any of them before treatment.

  • Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or allergic to any medicines.

  • Follow any directions you are given for not eating or drinking before the procedure.

  • If asked, bring X-rays, MRIs, or other tests with you to your treatment.

During the procedure

You may be given medicine to help you relax. You will lie on an exam table on your stomach or side, or sit in a chair. Stay as still as you can. During your treatment:

  • The skin over the injection site is cleaned. A pain medicine (local anesthetic) numbs the skin.

  • X-ray imaging (fluoroscopy) may be used to help your healthcare provider see where the injection needs to go. A contrast dye may be injected into the region to help get a better image.

  • The cervical epidural injection is given. It may contain a local anesthetic to numb the region, medicines to ease inflammation (steroids), or both.

Possible risks and complications

  • Infection

  • Spinal headaches

  • Bleeding

  • Nerve damage

  • Spinal cord damage

  • Prolonged increase in pain

Other more serious complications have been reported. Talk to your doctor about your risks.

After the procedure

Most often, you can go home shortly after the procedure, generally in about an hour. Have an adult friend or relative drive you. When the anesthetic wears off, your neck may feel more sore than usual. This is normal. Rest and put ice on the area for 20 minutes a few times during the first day. The steroids most often start to work within a few days. Ask your provider when it’s OK to return to your job.

When to call your healthcare provider

Call your provider right away if you have:

  • Fever

  • Nausea

  • Severe headaches

  • Increased arm weakness or numbness

  • Problems swallowing

  • Severe increase in pain