Dramatic and obvious changes take place to the spine as we get older and these frequently cause problems. The vertebrae of the spine are separated by intervertebral discs that act as both spacing devices and shock absorbers and they are attached firmly to the vertebrae they join together. As we age the structure of the discs deteriorate and this frequently results in the disc bulging or splitting. This is called a herniated disc. Disc herniations can happen at any level in the spine, but they usually occur at the lower end of the lumbar spine or the lower levels of the cervical spine.
Disc herniation can cause pain in the back or neck but more often than not extreme pain is felt in the leg or arm due to the bulging disc pressing on a nerve root. When the nerve pain is felt in the leg as a result of lumbar disc herniation this is called sciatica. When the nerve pain is felt in the arm as a result of cervical disc herniation this is called brachialgia. Nerve root pain is often excruciating but unfortunately it does not usually respond well to normal painkillers. However, the pain can be alleviated by image guided spinal steroid injections. This treatment involves very accurately injecting steroids around the affected nerve root, guided by continuous x-ray or by CT scanning.
Dr Nigel Kellow, Consultant Interventional Spine and Pain Physician says: “Steroid infiltration around nerves is usually very effective at controlling pain from sciatica or brachialgia and this treatment helps many people to avoid spinal surgery. “