Some people experiencing unrelenting pain will look for relief by getting a spinal epidural injection for back pain. The spinal injections for back pain are procedures that can relieve pain caused by inflamed spinal nerves that are usually related to disc herniation or spinal stenosis. This is a common treatment that gives quick relief from pain that can last from one week to a year or longer. The issue is that people getting the spinal epidural injection are so used to experiencing pain that they are overly cautious about staying active out of fear of causing the pain to return.
Staying Active Promotes Progress
The purpose of the spinal epidural injection is to reduce inflammation around spinal nerves which then relieves pain. It may be tempting to move as little as possible after the injection, largely because people get in the habit of limiting their activities due to chronic pain. However, the epidural injections for back pain are considered only a first step in a rehabilitation process. After the injection, it is important to relax the rest of the day and then resume non-strenuous normal activities the next day while adding some exercises.
When people experience ongoing pain, they inevitably change their lifestyles. After having an epidural steroid injection, the relief from all or most of the pain is fairly rapid. However, after people get spinal injections for back pain caused by inflamed spinal nerves, it is the time to begin the process of rehabilitation.
The epidural injection is a temporary medical solution to ease pain with the intent of enabling a person to possibly resolve the real cause of the pain or to minimize the return of the same intensity of pain when it is due to weak back muscles contributing to the spine’s deterioration. There are a variety of simple exercises a patient can do at home or through physical therapy that may help with back pain while strengthening supporting back muscles and connecting tissues.
Suggested activity after epidural steroid injection is focused on stretching, stabilizing and range of motion exercises. Start slow at first, and increase the exercise level and duration as the tissues in the back are strengthened.
Following are some suggested exercises that are easy to do but beneficial in many ways. They range from the easiest to increasingly more difficult exercises.
1. Walking – start slowly for the first 24 hours after the injection by walking around after every 30 minutes of sitting;
2. Light duty housework – resume light housework type of activities like vacuuming and dusting;
3. Ankle pumps – lie on the back, stretching out the legs, flattening the ankles to the floor and then bending the feet towards the body followed by a release; repeat at least 10 times;
4. Wall squats – place the back flat against a wall and the feet approximately 12 inches away from the wall; contract the abdomen muscles and bend the knees to go into a 5-second squat; return to the standing position; repeat at least 10 to 12 times;
5. Knee stretch – lie flat on the floor on the back and bring each knee to the chest, holding the back of the thigh at the same time; hold each bended kneepose for approximately 20 seconds beforereleasing; repeat 10-12 times with each leg;
6. Hamstring stretch – same as the knee stretch, except once the knee is bended, straighten the leg to the ceiling; hold each hamstring stretch pose for approximately 20 seconds before releasing; repeat 10-12 times with each leg;
7. Pelvic tilt – lie flat on the floor on the back with knees bent; lift the hips towards the ceiling and hold for 20 seconds; return the hips to the floor; repeat at least 10 times;
8. Side lying leg lift – lie on the side and raise the upper body on one arm; lift the leg until it is level with the hips and hold for 30 seconds; repeat on each side for a minimum of 10-12 times;
9. Bird dog position – get on hands and knees and look forward; lift one arm and one leg on the same side and hold for 30 seconds; repeat with the other arm and leg; do each side a minimum of 10-12 times.
It is also possible to do light aerobic exercises like swimming, water aerobics or riding a stationary bike. Avoid doing high impact exercises like jogging. This is just a sample list of the recommended type of activity after epidural steroid injection a person can do. Each one is designed to make the trunk muscles work progressively harder to promote stabilization and strengthening of the muscles.
Take Control of Pain
Over time, muscles get stronger, and people can do more active moves. It is the repetitiveness of the exercises that will build muscle strength during the rehabilitation process after epidural injections for back pain. However, exercising should become a routine part of everyone’s lifestyle.