Where I work I often assist doctors when they administer epidural or nerve root injections for back pain.
The neuro radiologists have told me that these injections are effective about 70% of the time–depending on what area is being injected as well as the degree of “damage.”
Also, there’s no way of knowing for how long the relief will last. On some people they last forever. Others a few months. Still others a few weeks. Others, not at all. Sometimes they work well the first time and then not so well later.
Kind of a crap shoot.
In order to receive one (at least where I work), you’d first have general x-rays of the area of the spine that is affected. Later, you’d have an MRI. Those would help to determine if you were a candidate.
I should also note that all the injections we do are either in the cervical or lumbar areas of the spine. I’ve never seen a thoracic injection. Doesn’t mean we wouldn’t do it, I suppose, but that there’s generally fewer complaints of thoracic pain than in the other areas.
As to what they inject…we use a steroid and a longer-lasting anesthetic. Any immediate relief is usually due to the anesthetic. It takes a while for the steroid to “knock down” the inflammation–which is what would generate long-term relief.
Unfortunately, my own back pain has reached a point where I’m looking into trying out an injection. I’ve had the x-rays and the MRI, but that was several years ago, and they confirmed the reason for the pain (spondylolysis, spondylolisthesis). I’m scheduled to have them again. After that, there will be another neuro consult where we discuss options. Then I’ll have the injection.
I believe I’ll have someone write something like, “Patient is a big sissy–use extra lidocaine,” or “Neuro Rads Rock!” on my back before I go in there and have the 3 1/2" needle stuck in my back.
ETA: I wouldn’t call them a “fad.” These procedures have been being performed for many, many years.