Guide to Getting and Recovering from Spinal Injections: What to Expect and Post-Care
By Alan Stupnitsky, MD
For many grappling with chronic neck or chronic back pain in Phoenix, spinal injections represent a beacon of hope, offering the potential for pain relief and restored mobility. Beyond the procedure itself, knowing what to anticipate beforehand and understanding the recovery process can significantly influence the overall experience. Whether you have recently undergone a spinal injection or are contemplating one, a clear roadmap from start to finish is instrumental in setting expectations and calming any nerves. Dive into this comprehensive guide to ensure you are fully prepared for both the spinal injection and the recovery journey that follows.
Before the Injection: Preparing for the Procedure
- Depending on the procedure, you may be advised to stop taking blood thinners, so please inform your healthcare provider if you are taking this type of medication. You should take your routine medications the day of the procedure.
- Some procedures may require fasting for up to six hours with sips of clear liquids up to two hours prior. Your healthcare provider will guide you on when to stop eating and drinking.
- It is best to wear loose, comfortable clothing to your procedure.
- Some spinal injections may lead to temporary numbness, weakness, or dizziness. Plus, if sedation is involved, you should not drive for up to 24 hours. It is best to arrange for someone to drive you home post-procedure.
On the Day of the Injection: What to Expect
- Arrive at least 30 minutes prior to your appointment. This allows time for check-in procedures.
- The medical team will explain the procedure to you, ensuring you understand every step. You will undergo the consenting process, and if required, an IV line may be placed.
The Procedure Room
- You will be acquainted with the fluoroscope (the x-ray machine) and the team members, including the doctor(s), x-ray technician, and nurse. Each person plays a vital role in ensuring the procedure goes smoothly.
- The actual spinal injection typically takes between 15 and 30 minutes.
- Post-procedure, you will move to the recovery area, where the team will monitor your vital signs.
- It is common to experience temporary numbness or weakness in the leg or arm after injections in the back or neck, but these symptoms usually subside quickly, within minutes to a few hours.
- Before discharge, you will be briefed on any symptoms to watch out for and then scheduled for the necessary follow-up appointment(s).
Immediate Injection Aftercare: The First 24 Hours
1. Rest and Observation
It is best to take it easy the day of your injection. Note that any immediate reactions, such as slight discomfort at the injection site, is typical; however, severe pain is not and warrants medical attention.
2. Stay Hydrated
Drink plenty of fluids to keep the body hydrated.
3. Ice the Injection Site
If you notice swelling, apply an ice pack to the area for 15-20 minutes every few hours. This will help reduce inflammation and provide pain relief.
4. Limit Physical Activity
You may continue your daily activities, but avoid strenuous activities. Even if you feel good, your body is still healing. It is best not to attend PT or go to the gym on the same day as the injection.
Extended Care: Days and Weeks Post-Injection
1. Monitor Pain Levels and Symptoms
Some soreness is common after the numbness from the anesthetic wears off; however, it should gradually decrease. Take note of changes in your pain score over the first several days post injection. Persistent or worsening pain should be discussed with your healthcare provider, along with any of the symptoms mentioned below:
Post-Injection Symptoms Requiring Medical Attention:
- Severe headache or dizziness
- Fever or signs of an infection at the injection site
- Worsening or severe pain
- Sudden weakness or numbness after the initial recovery period
- Bladder or bowel incontinence
2. Gradually Resume Activities
Start with light activities such as walking. As the days progress, and with your healthcare provider’s guidance, you may slowly reintroduce more strenuous activities. Depending on your injection, your healthcare provider may recommend PT to ensure optimal recovery.
3. Attend Follow-Up Appointments
These appointments are crucial to ensure everything is healing as expected and to address any concerns you may have for the future.
Expert Spinal Injection Specialists Across Arizona
Understanding the spinal injection procedure from start to finish can provide peace of mind. At Desert Spine and Sports Physicians (DSSP), we are committed to ensuring our patients have a clear picture of what to expect and are comfortable every step of the way. Our sports physiatrists offer spinal injection procedures that can pave the way to a life with reduced back pain and increased mobility, but the recovery journey is equally important.
By adhering to post-procedure guidelines and maintaining regular communication with your healthcare provider, you can maximize the benefits of the injection. If you are in Arizona and have more questions or concerns regarding spinal injections and recovery, our physiatrists in Phoenix are here to support and guide you every step of the way.
Content reviewed by Susan Sorosky, MD.
Images used under creative commons license – commercial use.