History of the Epidural

History of the Epidural | Integrated Pain Consultants | Dr. Nikesh Seth

History of the Epidural

When people hear “epidural,” Dr. Nikesh Seth knows that most people think of easing the pain of childbirth in a single shot. Epidurals are a highly effective and popular form of pain management for mothers in labor, but these injections can also be used to treat a wide variety of pains. Epidural is a household name, even though many people don’t realize its uses go beyond childbirth pain management. Where did this safe and powerful injection come from, and how can we utilize it more widely?

How An Epidural Manages Pain

The “epidural” can actually be made up of two parts including epidural analgesia (lack of sensation) and epidural anesthesia (lack of pain). It’s injected into the “epidural space” located in the spinal cord. First, a local anesthetic is used to ensure minimal discomfort. Usually, the drug is injected via a catheter, and causes an instant loss of sensation in the spinal cord. The nerve fibers are temporarily unable to send any signals, including pain signals, anywhere near the spinal cord.

The very first single-shot epidural anesthesia was created by a Spanish military surgeon in 1921. Fidel Pages created the technique to treat wounded soldiers in severe pain. Closely related is spinal anesthesia, where a drug is injected into the cerebrospinal fluid of the spine. It’s very similar to an epidural anesthesia, but with a few key differences. Epidurals use a larger drug dose, work faster, and can be used anywhere within the vertebral column (spinal injections are just for the area beneath the lumbar vertebral body). Still, it’s common for some people to confuse the two terms.

It’s been nearly 100 years since the first single-shot epidural was used, and it continues to be one of the safest and most effective means of temporary pain management. Unlike many other so-called alternative therapies, epidurals have a long and proven history. Outside of childbirth, epidurals can be helpful in reducing other types of back and leg pain, improving mobility, decreasing dependency on pain medications, and delaying or even avoiding surgery. Find out if an epidural steroid injection is a right fit for you by calling Dr. Nikesh Seth and Integrated Pain Consultants at 480-626-2552.