Epidural Injections

image of patient awaiting an epidural injection

Epidural Injections

Information for Patients

Dorset Musculoskeletal (MSK) Services offer an epidural service for patients presenting with leg/buttock pain which is back-related. This is often referred to as 'sciatica'.

The service has been set up to treat this common problem and offers quick and accessible clinics to those in need.

Currently this is only available via a referral from within the service, after you have been assessed.


You have been referred for an epidural injection, by one of the practitioners. This procedure will often hasten recovery in cases of sciatica (pain in the leg from an irritated nerve in the lower back).


You will be sent an appointment for the epidural as soon as possible. This will be either at Weymouth Community Hospital, Frederick Treves House in Poundbury, Dorchester or Blandford Hospital (for x-ray guided epidurals). Please see the Locations area for more information.

The appointment will take approximately 20-30 minutes and you are advised not to drive yourself home afterwards. Please therefore arrange a lift with a friend or relative (or let us know if you need hospital transport).

Theatre team photo

What Is an Epidural?

An epidural is basically a cortisone injection into the epidural space (in the lower back) which is the space around the discs and nerves. The injection is placed through a very small area, in the sacrum, called the 'safe zone'.
The cortisone helps to settle down inflammation around the nerves caused when the disc is damaged. The overall success rate (clearance of pain, or at least worthwhile improvement) is approximately 70%.

Waiting Times

man stading up with back painThe wait for an epidural does fluctuate. However, we do our best to make the wait as short as possible - usually 2-4 weeks, and we try to give priority to those most severely affected, e.g. being off work, unable to sleep etc.

Side Effects

Generally there are very few side effects. A caudal epidural injection is a very simple and safe procedure. Occasionally the injection can make the pain worse for a day or two, or give a mild headache afterwards.

Serious side effects such as infection or injury to the nerves are very uncommon. One particular caution is with people who take Warfarin to thin the blood. This needs to be stopped or changed before having an epidural.


Also please tell us if you have ever had an adverse reaction to local anaesthetic or to cortisone.

What if it doesn't work?

If the epidural doesn't help, then it may be repeated, sometimes under X-ray control. It may also sometimes be appropriate to investigate further to assess the disc / nerve problem more accurately.

How long does it take to work?

Typically, it will start to help in 2-3 days and then have its effect over the next 2-3 weeks.

Will I be followed up?

You may be followed up with a further clinic appointment, or by telephone. Or alternatively, we may ask you to get in touch with us if the epidural does not give sufficient improvement. This will be explained to you at the appointment.

If you have any queries you can contact the MSK secretaries on 01305 762631.

Please download our Epidural Injection information Sheet to print off here.

Musculo-Skeletal (MSK)