Anyone who has experienced a herniated disc knows just how painful the condition can be. Back pain caused by herniated discs can be anywhere from mild and slightly irritating to completely debilitating. Fortunately, there are treatments that do not require surgery. Transforaminal epidural steroid injections (TESIs) are among them.
Typical treatments for herniated discs begin with both over the counter (OTC) and prescription pain medications. OTC options are generally analgesics and anti-inflammatories. When doctors resort to prescription meds, patients are looking at neuropathic drugs, muscle relaxers, and maybe even opioid painkillers.
When medications and rest do not offer enough relief, a doctor might suggest surgery. Unfortunately, back surgery is all too common in the U.S. But there is an alternative in the TESI.
TESI is an injection therapy combining both a steroid anti-inflammatory and an anesthetic pain medication. It is also an outpatient procedure performed at a pain management doctor’s office. TESI is a therapy offered by Lone Star Pain Medicine in Weatherford, TX.
Lone Star doctors explain that the concept behind TESI is to reduce inflammation and block pain signals while the body heals itself. It doesn’t work for every patient who tries it. But when it does work, patients tend to report significant pain relief.
TESI’s pain-relieving strategy is rooted in the causes of pain from herniated discs. When a disc herniates, it protrudes from the space it is normally confined to. The herniation often results in the disk pressing on nearby nerves, thereby causing pain.
Herniated discs often resolve themselves, which is why doctors tend to recommend rest and pain medications. But traditional treatments do not always provide the desired relief. That is when TESI becomes a viable alternative.
TESI is a pretty basic procedure from the doctor’s perspective. The goal is to locate the exact site of the pain so that signals sent to the brain can be blocked. This is accomplished with the use of fluoroscopy. Do not let the name scare you. Fluoroscopy is a quite common procedure and one that has been in use for years.
To begin, the patient lies on an exam table with a pillow under the stomach. The skin is numbed with a local anesthetic, then a needle is inserted through the skin and directed toward the herniated disc. Doctors use a fluoroscope to guide needle placement with the goal of injecting the medication exactly where it is needed.
A dye is injected before the medication. Its purpose is to fine-tune the needle location to ensure medication goes to the right spot. When the doctor is satisfied with needle placement, a combination of corticosteroids and pain medication is injected.
In many cases, patients experience immediate relief from their back pain despite experiencing pain from the injection itself. Injection pain can continue for several days after the therapy. It goes away in due time.
Other patients do not experience immediate back pain relief. Their pain may continue for a couple of days until the inflammation has subsided sufficiently. Once the information goes down, pressure on the nerve is relieved and pain diminishes.
One last thing to note is that TESI rarely offers permanent pain relief. Patients generally receive injections 3 to 6 times per year to maintain ongoing pain relief. But as an alternative to invasive surgery, TESI is certainly a viable option.
Herniated discs can be extremely painful. When rest and pain medications do not offer enough relief and surgery is off the table, TESI is an alternative patients should think about. It is safe, effective, and minimally invasive.