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Spinal Injections vs Surgery – What You Should Know

Spinal Injections vs Surgery - What You Should Know

Two common treatment options for managing spinal pain are spinal injections and surgery. While both can provide relief, they have distinct differences that are essential to understand. In this article, we will delve into the world of spinal injections vs surgery, exploring the types of spinal injections, their long-term effects, and how they compare to surgical options like cervical spinal fusion surgery.

Spinal Injections: A Non-Surgical Solution

Spinal injections are a non-surgical treatment option for managing spinal pain. They involve injecting medication, usually steroids or pain relievers, into the affected area to reduce inflammation and alleviate pain. But are spinal injections considered surgery? The answer is no; they are a minimally invasive procedure that does not require incisions or hospitalization.

Types of Spinal Injections

There are several types of spinal injections, including:

  • Epidural injections: Injecting medication into the epidural space to reduce inflammation and relieve pain.
  • Facet joint injections: Injecting medication for the facet joints pain and inflammation.
  • Nerve block injections: Injecting medication to block pain signals from specific nerves.
  • Trigger point injections: Injecting medication into specific areas to relieve muscle spasms.
  • Sacroiliac joint injections: Injecting medication into the sacroiliac joint to reduce pain and inflammation.

How Spinal Injections Work

Spinal injections work by:

  • Reducing inflammation: Steroids or pain relievers can reduce swelling and inflammation, relieving pressure on surrounding nerves.
  • Relieving pain: Medication can numb the affected area, providing temporary pain relief.
  • Identifying the source of pain: Diagnostic injections can help identify the specific area causing pain.
  • Reducing muscle spasms: Trigger point injections can relieve muscle tension and spasms.

Long Term Effects of Spinal Injections

While spinal injections can provide effective pain relief, it’s essential to consider their long-term effects. Do steroid injections delay surgery? In some cases, steroid injections can delay the need for surgery by reducing inflammation and pain.

Surgery: A Permanent Solution

Surgery, on the other hand, is a permanent solution for managing spinal pain. Long-term effects of cervical fusion surgery, for example, can include:

  • Increased mobility
  • Reduced pain
  • Improved quality of life
  • Stabilization of the spine
  • Reduced risk of future injuries
  • Correction of spinal deformities

However, surgery carries risks like:

  • Infection
  • Nerve damage
  • Prolonged recovery time
  • Blood clots
  • Reaction to anesthesia
  • Spinal fluid leak
  • Pseudarthrosis (failure of fusion)

When to Consider Surgery

Surgery may be the best option when:

  • Pain is severe and persistent
  • Numbness or weakness in the legs or arms
  • Difficulty walking or standing
  • Bowel or bladder dysfunction
  • Spinal deformities like scoliosis or kyphosis
  • Spinal fractures or instability
  • Tumors or cancer

Comparing Spinal Injections and Surgery

Spinal InjectionsSurgery
InvasivenessMinimally invasiveInvasive
Recovery timeQuick recoveryProlonged recovery
Pain reliefTemporaryPermanent
RisksSide effects from medicationInfection, nerve damage, etc.
CostGenerally less expensiveMore expensive
Effectiveness50-70% success rate80-90% success rate

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the risks of spinal injections?

Risks include infection, nerve damage, and allergic reactions to medication.

  • How long do spinal injections last?

Pain relief can last from a few days to several months.

  • Can I have spinal injections if I’m pregnant or breastfeeding?

Consult with your doctor; it’s generally recommended to avoid spinal injections during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

  • What are the alternatives to spinal injections and surgery?

Physical therapy, chiropractic care, and pain management programs can be effective alternatives.

  • How many spinal injections can I have?

The number of injections depends on the individual case and the doctor’s recommendation.

  • Can I drive after a spinal injection?

It’s generally recommended to avoid driving for a few hours after the procedure.

  • How much do spinal injections cost?

Cost varies depending on the location, doctor, and insurance coverage.

  • What are the side effects of spinal injections?

Common side effects include temporary pain, numbness, and weakness.

  • Can I have spinal injections if I have a bleeding disorder?

Consult with your doctor; spinal injections may not be recommended for individuals with bleeding disorders.

  • How long does the spinal injection procedure take?

The procedure typically takes 30 minutes to an hour.

Additional Resources

  • National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
  • American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS)
  • North American Spine Society (NASS)
  • American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians (ASIPP)


  • Epidural space: The area between the spinal cord and the vertebrae.
  • Facet joints: Small joints in the spine that help with flexibility and movement.
  • Nerve block: A procedure that blocks pain signals from specific nerves.
  • Trigger points: Areas of muscle tissue that cause pain when inflamed.
  • Sacroiliac joint: The joint that connects the sacrum and ilium bones.

By understanding the differences between spinal injections and surgery, you can make an informed decision about your spinal health. Remember to consult with a medical professional to determine the best course of treatment for your specific condition.


Spinal injections vs surgery are two distinct treatment options for managing spinal pain. While spinal injections offer a non-surgical solution with minimal risks, surgery provides a permanent solution with potential long-term benefits. It’s crucial to consult with a medical professional to determine the best course of treatment for your specific condition.

Medical Disclaimer

The information in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. Consult with a medical professional for personalized guidance on managing spinal pain.

Contact Us

If you’re experiencing spinal pain and are unsure about the best treatment option, contact the Spine and Pain Clinic of Texas today at +1 (214) 256-3900 to schedule a consultation with our expert medical team. Our dedicated professionals will work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan to address your specific needs and get you back to living a pain-free life.

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