Cervical spine injections are injections administered into the spine in the neck to help relieve pain associated with pinched or inflamed nerves. The injection usually contains a mixture of an anesthetic and an anti-inflammatory medication.
The spine, also called the spinal column or vertebral column, is made up of 33 small bones called vertebrae that are arranged one on top of the other, and surrounding and protecting the spinal cord. The spine can be divided into 5 parts: cervical, thoracic, lumbar, sacral, and coccyx. The cervical spine is comprised of the first 7 vertebrae, which supports the neck and the head. Soft discs present between the vertebral bones help support the spine and ensure flexibility. Nerves pass to and from the spinal cord through spaces between the vertebral bones. Compression of these nerves passing through the cervical spine can cause neck pain that may radiate to the upper back, shoulders, and arms.
Cervical spine injections are indicated for pain due to pinched or inflamed nerves in the neck. Some of the conditions causing that can cause nerve compression include:
- Spinal stenosis or narrowing of the spinal canal
- Bulging or herniated discs between the vertebrae
- Bone spurs
- Facet joint or nerve root cysts
- Spinal compression fractures
To help you prepare for the procedure:
Your doctor will review your medical history thoroughly before the procedure.
- You must inform your doctor about any health conditions you have such as diabetes or bleeding disorders.
- You should inform your doctor about any medications you may be taking such as blood thinners, over-the-counter medications, or supplements.
- You may be asked to stop taking certain medicines several days prior to the procedure.
- You should not consume any food or drink several hours prior to the procedure.
- A written consent will be obtained from you after the procedure has been explained in detail.
- A cervical spinal injection is usually performed as an outpatient procedure in an office or clinic setting
- You will lie down on the operating table in a face down position.
- Your neck and upper back are sterilized with an antiseptic solution.
- Under the guidance of X-ray fluoroscopy, your physician passes the needle through the skin, between the bony vertebrae and into the cervical epidural space to target the specific area causing pain.
- X-ray dye is first injected to see if it spreads to the target location.
- The injection is then slowly administered, and the needle is removed.
- A small dressing is applied over the injection site to complete the procedure.
After the procedure:
- You will be transferred to the recovery area for observation and discharged shortly thereafter.
- You will be able to walk around immediately following the procedure and can resume all your normal activities the following day.
- You will receive instructions on managing pain and soreness around the injection site with medications and application of ice packs.
- Due to the sedative medication, someone will have to drive you home after the procedure.
- You should not operate any machinery or consume alcohol for 24 hours following the injection.
- You should record improvement in pain levels in a diary over a few weeks.
- A follow-up appointment will be scheduled to monitor your progress.
- Your doctor may recommend a repeat injection for the best results
Risks and Complications
Cervical spine injections are relatively safe; however, as with any procedure, there are risks and complications which may include:
- Nerve injury
- Allergic reaction
Cervical spinal injections are one of the most effective conservative treatments for chronic neck pain of spinal origin. Research has shown that it can swiftly decrease or totally mitigate pain in some patients. Your doctor will discuss whether this procedure is ideal for you.