Although there are benefits of the epidural, there are just as many risks we often rarely hear about. These include numbness, headaches, and nausea, as well as back pain after epidural.
Epidural anesthesia is without a doubt the most popular method of pain relief during labor in the United States. With over 50% of women opting for this approach, we can say that it does help giving birth a far easier and less painful experience. However, it is important to understand the complications of any medical procedure before giving birth, including an epidural.
Chances are if you surf the web you’ll read many complaints about post epidural back pain. Pain may persist for days or weeks and then slowly fade or may become a real chronic concern, creating suffering that does not go away over time.
Epidural in a Nutshell
Let me quickly break down what an epidural is. The goal of an epidural to remove pain relief by losing total feeling in a particular region of your body. The epidural blocks the nerve impulses from the lower spinal segment. So for the most part, the lower half of your body will experience some level of numbness.
According to americanpregnancy.org, a small area on your back will be injected with the local anesthetic to numb it. Next, a needle is inserted into the numbed area surrounding the spinal cord in the lower back.
After that, a small tube or catheter is threaded through the needle into the epidural space. The needle is carefully removed with the catheter in place and taped to the back to prevent it from slipping out. For more information on epidurals check out Epidurals: 6 Things You Need To Know
Back pain commonly occurs after epidural anesthesia 18.9% of the time. Nineteen percent of women had a long-term backache after epidural anesthesia. It results from a combination of its effects on the nerves and extreme postures and stretching that occurs after the epidural during labor. It isn’t for the faint of heart, and more importantly, it isn’t appealing if you’re interested in a non-interventional natural pregnancy.
Back Pain After an Epidural
The Back Pain Authority explains causes of back pain after an epidural:
Epidural injections penetrate the skin, muscular tissues, connective tissues and then enter into the central spinal canal. Some epidural injections are directed into specific intervertebral discs, while others are directed into the deepest layers of the dura mater. The goal of the procedure will determine its specific anatomical target.
Since the spinal canal contains nerves, the spinal cord, blood vessels and other sensitive and vital tissues, the possibility for injury exists to any of these structures. Additionally, discs can suffer annular tears from needle placement and this might create the ideal circumstances for intervertebral rupture, nucleus extrusion, nucleus migration and/or nucleus sequestration. Any of these circumstances can result in an acute or chronic pain problem.
Keep in mind that the back pain after labor is different from the pain post epidural. Pain related to an epidural should come from the place where the needle was injected.
However, you may experience any of the following if you do experience any back pain post epidural:
- Your back pain is getting worse rather than better.
- Tenderness or bruising is to be expected, but it should interfere with your everyday activities.
- Any redness or swelling develops around the site where the needle was put into your back.
- Any discharge or pus in the area where the spinal needle was put into your back.
- Any change in sensation, numbness or pins and needles in your back, legs or feet that you did not notice while you were in the hospital.
- Any backaches, headaches or neck stiffness that is accompanied by a fever, worsens when you sit or stand up or does not go away after some time.
How to Treat Back Pain After an Epidural
Anyone experiencing ongoing pain should see a neurologist. A panel of tests such as nerve conduction studies, MRI and CT scan would be done to help figure out the root of the damage. Following the trial, the patient would then follow a treatment plan including physiotherapy and exercise.
In the end it is your decision whether to get an epidural and face the potential risks. Be sure to do your homework so you can make the best educated decision for yourself.
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