5 most common pain injections

The 5 most common pain injections

Pain can be debilitating and affects your ability to perform daily tasks, work, and enjoy life. Fortunately, there are various types of pain injections available to alleviate different types of pain. In this article, we will briefly discuss the 5 most common pain injections, their uses, benefits, and risks.  This article is meant to be an introduction only as we will discuss each type of injection in more detail in their own blog post.

5 most common pain injections

Types of Pain Injections

1) Epidural Steroid Injections

Epidural steroid injections are a common pain injection used to treat spinal nerve root irritation caused by a herniated disc, spinal stenosis, or degenerative disc disease. The injection delivers a combination of a local anesthetic and a corticosteroid medication to reduce inflammation around irritated nerve roots and therefore relieve pain. The injection is administered into the epidural space around the spinal cord.


2) Facet Joint Injections/Medial Branch Blocks

Facet joint injections/medial branch blocks are pain injections that target the small joints between the vertebrae in the spine. The injections are used to diagnose and treat pain caused by inflammation or damage to the facet joints. The injection contains a combination of a local anesthetic and a steroid medication, which numbs the area and reduces inflammation. The facet joints are rather small and therefore only a small amount of medication can be injected into the joint itself.  The medial branch block differs from a facet injection in that the medication is injected along the nerve that supplies sensation to the facet joint instead of putting the medication in the joint itself.  The duration of relief is much shorter for this injection however this injection is mostly used as a diagnostic test to identify whether or not the joint is the origin of the pain or not.


3) Trigger Point Injections

Trigger point injections are used to treat muscle pain caused by trigger points, which are tight bands of muscle that form when muscles do not relax. The injection contains a local anesthetic and a steroid medication that helps to relieve pain and reduce inflammation.  This type of injection is not meant to treat arthritis.  It is for muscle pains only.


4) Small, Medium, and Large Joint Cortisone Injections

Cortisone injections are used to reduce inflammation and relieve pain in small, medium, and large joints such as the shoulder, knee, hip, ankle, and wrist. The injection contains a corticosteroid medication that reduces inflammation and a local anesthetic that provides temporary pain relief.


5) Radiofrequency Ablation

Radiofrequency ablation is a minimally invasive procedure used to treat chronic pain caused by the facet joints in the spine. The procedure uses radiofrequency energy to heat and temporarily destroy the sensory nerves that transmit pain signals, thereby providing potentially long-lasting pain relief.  Although the procedure can produce longer lasting relief than cortisone injections, it is not a permanent fix facet pain as the small sensory nerves can grow back slowly over time.


Uses and Benefits of Pain Injections

Pain injections are used to treat various types of pain, including:

  • Back pain
  • Neck pain
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle pain
  • Nerve pain
  • Headaches

The benefits of pain injections include:

  • Immediate pain relief
  • Reduced inflammation
  • Increased mobility and flexibility
  • Improved quality of life

Risks and Side Effects of Pain Injections

Like any medical procedure, pain injections come with risks and side effects. Some common side effects include:

  • Pain and swelling at the injection site
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Increased blood sugar levels
  • Infection

Rare but serious complications may include:

  • Nerve damage
  • Paralysis
  • Allergic reaction

Preparing for a Pain Injection

Before getting a pain injection, you will need to inform your doctor of any medications you are taking, including over-the-counter medications and supplements. You may also need to fast for a few hours before the procedure.

After the pain injection, your doctor will provide you with aftercare instructions. These may include:

  • Resting for the remainder of the day
  • Avoiding strenuous activities for a few days
  • Applying ice to the injection site to reduce swelling and pain
  • Taking pain medication as prescribed by your doctor
  • Following up with your doctor to monitor your progress

Final Thoughts

Pain injections are an effective treatment option for various types of pain. The 5 most common pain injections are epidural steroid injections, facet joint injections/medial branch blocks, trigger point injections, small, medium, and large joint cortisone injections, and radiofrequency ablation. While they come with risks and side effects, the benefits of pain injections can be life-changing for those experiencing chronic pain.



  1. How long does it take for a pain injection to work?
  • The duration for a pain injection to work varies depending on the type of injection and individual circumstances. Some injections may provide immediate pain relief, while others may take a few days to take effect.  Generally any corticosteroid based injection usually takes about 48 hours for the effect to be noticeable. 
  1. Can I drive after a pain injection?
  • It is generally recommended to avoid driving or operating heavy machinery for a few hours after a pain injection.  
  1. How many pain injections can I receive?
  • The number of pain injections you can receive depends on your individual circumstances and the type of injection. Your doctor will provide you with personalized recommendations.   Injections should only be repeated if they result in a positive outcome such as satisfactory pain relief for a reasonable duration of time. 
  1. Are pain injections safe during pregnancy?
  • Pain injections should only be administered during pregnancy if the benefits outweigh the risks. It is important to discuss this with your doctor before considering a pain injection.
  1. Can I continue my regular medications after a pain injection?
  • You should inform your doctor of all medications you are taking before receiving a pain injection. Your doctor will provide you with personalized recommendations on whether or not to continue your regular medications.

About the author: Rainier Guiang, MD is board certified in Pain Management and Anesthesiology and has been in academic and private practice since 1999.

Disclosure: The content on AskAPainDoctor.com may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive compensation for purchases made through those links.

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