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Cervical Epidural Injection: Your Experience

Healthcare provider giving injection in man's neck. Man is lying face down on imaging table.
A fluoroscope may be used to help the doctor see your spine during the procedure.
Cervical epidural injection is a treatment for certain types of neck pain. 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 for a short time or a long time. But it does have some serious risks.

The injection can be done in your doctor's office. Or it may be 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, make sure to ask the healthcare provider:

  • Why do I need this procedure?

  • Are there any alternatives?

  • How many times have you done this procedure?

  • What are the risks?

  • When will I see the results?

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

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

Getting ready for your treatment

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

  • Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or could be.

  • Tell your doctor if you are 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.

Risks and possible 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

You can likely go home about 1 hour after the procedure. Have a family member or friend drive you. When the anesthetic wears off, your neck may feel more sore than usual. This is normal. Rest and put ice or a cold pack wrapped in a thin cloth on the area for 20 minutes. Do this a few times during the first day. The steroids most often start to work within a few days. Ask your healthcare provider when it’s OK to go back to work.

When to call your healthcare provider

Call your healthcare provider right away if you have:

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as advised by your healthcare provider

  • Nausea

  • Severe headaches

  • Arm weakness or numbness that gets worse

  • Trouble swallowing

  • Pain that gets much worse

© 2000-2018 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.