Epidural anesthesia is most commonly used to mitigate the intense pain women experience during labor, but does it set patients up for more pain in the future? While academics and physicians are still arguing over whether there is a clear correlation between epidural anesthesia and future chronic lower back pain, individuals who believe they are epidural back pain sufferers still deal with the day to day challenges of persistent pain. It is important to examine all the factors surrounding epidural back pain in order to discern the proper treatment for the pain or to discover other possible causes.
Short Term Epidural Back Pain
Epidural anesthesia entails having a long, relatively large needle inserted directly into the spine; anytime such harm is done to the body, the tissue surrounding the site will react. This is especially true when inexperienced anesthesiologists need repeated attempts to achieve a successful injection. Tissue trauma explains the soreness and swelling many people experience in the days directly after receiving an epidural. Often, those who were already back pain sufferers prior to the epidural will describe an increase in their normal back pain around this time as well. This may be in response to the tissue reaction, or it might just be part of the normal cycle of back pain that is magnified by localized pain at the epidural injection site; regardless, these people are experiencing a real type of epidural related back pain.
Chronic Epidural Back Pain
While a randomized British study done in 2001 is often cited to refute claims of long term epidural back pain, personal accounts by sufferers can be found all over. Some report sharp pain at the injection site for several months after giving birth; still others report numbness and tingling. In some cases, no pain is felt for long periods of time and then a flare up will be caused by a clumsy movement or extended stay in an uncomfortable position. Unfortunately, there are a few who claim to feel intense, unrelenting pain for years and are medicated as a result. Most uniformly and often, however, sufferers report powerful pain both at the site and in the lower back, with the former resolving more quickly and the latter gradually fading into a dull ache but never fully subsiding.
In most situations, no action needs to be taken. Epidural back pain frequently subsides on its own over time, especially pain associated with the site of the epidural injection. If the pain does not subside on its own over time, visit your family physician or a chiropractor for a physical exam. When an obvious physical cause is ruled out, it has been theorized that chronic epidural back pain may actually be a psychological response to the trauma of childbirth or any other painful medical procedure that required epidural anesthesia. Therapy, physical therapy, multivitamins, breathing exercises and low impact aerobics or yoga are all regularly prescribed responses to epidural back pain; these are all treatment methods that are often met with at least some degree of success.