How long should you wait to lift weights after an epidural steroid injection?

by | Mar 10, 2024 | Physical Therapy

Chronic pain is a major health concern affecting over 28 million American women. Women are more likely to experience chronic pain conditions, including chronic back pain. This can be due to hormonal fluctuations, anatomical differences, and increased sensitivity to the emotional toll of pain. Chronic back pain issues like herniated discs, spinal stenosis and radiculopathy can have a significant impact on one’s quality of life. A cornerstone treatment option for helping to manage this pain is an epidural steroid injection. Before undergoing this treatment, it’s essential to be fully informed about the procedure, potential risks, and what to expect during recovery and when you can resume activities. 

What is an epidural steroid injection, and how does it work?

An epidural steroid injection is the precise administration of corticosteroids into the epidural space that surrounds the spinal cord and nerve roots. This targeted delivery can help alleviate inflammation and swelling around irritated spinal nerves. Reducing inflammation can help provide pain relief and improve mobility. The epidural space serves as the ideal location for delivering medication directly to the affected area. 

During the procedure, you will typically lie on your stomach or side so the health care provider can have access to your back. The injection site will be cleaned and numbed to help ensure your comfort during the procedure. Your health care provider will insert a thin needle carefully into your epidural space so the medication is delivered precisely to the affected area. You may experience mild pressure or discomfort during the injection. 

Conditions that can be treated with epidural steroid injections

Epidural steroid injections are used to help manage a variety of spinal conditions, including but not limited to:

  • Herniated discs.
  • Spinal stenosis.
  • Degenerative disc disease.
  • Sciatica.
  • Radiculopathy.
  • Post-surgical pain.
  • Vertebral bone spurs.
  • Scoliosis.

Risks and side effects of epidural steroid injections

Epidural steroid injections are generally considered a safe and well-tolerated treatment choice. However, they do carry some risks and potential side effects, including:

  • Temporary pain increases at the injection site.
  • Headache.
  • Infection.
  • Bleeding.
  • Nerve damage.
  • Allergic reaction to the medication.

It’s crucial to discuss the risks and side effects versus the benefits of receiving an epidural steroid injection with your health care provider. If you begin experiencing any symptoms or complications after the procedure, you should promptly report them and seek attention. 

Post-procedure expectations

After your epidural steroid injection, you may experience some temporary soreness or numbness at the injection site. It’s important to rest and avoid strenuous activities for the first 24 to 48 hours. This allows the medication time to take effect and minimizes your risk of complications. You may begin to experience relief within a few days to a week after the injection; however sometimes, the full therapeutic effects may take longer to manifest. 

Return to activities timeline after an epidural steroid injection

Your return to activities timeline after your procedure may vary depending on a variety of factors, including your response to treatment and the type of activities. After the initial rest period, you may be cleared to gradually resume your normal activities as you can tolerate them, but avoid heavy lifting and strenuous exercises in the immediate recovery time. Light stretching and light weights can be eased into after the first week, but weights should be kept to around 5 to 10 pounds (or easy load) and increase gradually as tolerated. 

Your health care provider may recommend physical therapy to help boost your recovery. Physical therapy can help improve your strength, flexibility and mobility in the affected area. Your recovery timeline will be based on your specific needs and circumstances. 

Benefits of incorporating physical therapy resistance training for women’s spine health

Lifting weights can be beneficial for spine health and may help relieve pain, especially under the guidance of a physical therapist. Resistance training is a key component of weightlifting. It helps work muscles against forms of resistance like weights, bands or your body weight. With a physical therapist’s supervision, they can help you add resistance training into your recovery after an epidural steroid injection to boost its benefits to help chronic back pain. Benefits of adding resistance training include:

  • Muscle strength — Resistance training with weights can help strengthen the muscles surrounding the spine. These muscles are essential to provide support and stability in the back. Strengthening core and back muscles can help reduce the risk of spinal injuries. 
  • Improved posture — Strong muscles can help promote better posture. Having good posture habits can reduce the strain on the spine and help alleviate chronic back pain.
  • Bone density — Lifting weights can help promote bone density, which is crucial for spinal health. Keeping up healthy bone density can help prevent conditions like osteoporosis, which affects approximately 10 million Americans. 
  • Flexibility and mobility — Conditions like spinal stenosis can benefit from resistance training. Controlled weightlifting movements can help increase spinal flexibility, improve range of motion and reduce stiffness, which can all be limited by spinal stenosis. 
  • Pain management — Regular exercise has been proven to help reduce pain due to the natural release of endorphins. Using proper technique and lifting weights can help further manage your spinal discomfort after an epidural steroid injection. 

Working with a physical therapist can help ensure that you are doing exercises correctly and safely. This helps maximize the benefits of resistance training during recovery and managing your chronic back pain condition while minimizing the risk of injury. 

Trust your spine health to Forever Fit Physical Therapy & Wellness

At Forever Fit Physical Therapy & Wellness, we understand the challenges dealing with chronic back pain can present and the desire to quickly return to your normal activities after an epidural steroid injection. Our team of expert physical therapists is well equipped to help provide you with personalized guidance and evidence-based strategies to help you regain function, alleviate pain and achieve lasting relief from chronic back issues. We are committed to empowering you on your journey toward optimal spine health and a healthier future. 

Contact our team today for more information or to schedule an initial appointment.

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