Neck pain is an exceedingly common affliction, with an estimated two-thirds of the population experiencing it at some point. When conservative treatment options like rest, hot/cold therapy, medication, and physical therapy are not enough, neck injections can provide more intensive pain relief. There are various types of injections that can be administered, depending on the source of the pain. However, a common question patients have is just how long they can expect the effects of a neck injection to last. The duration depends on many factors.
One of the most frequently performed neck injections are corticosteroid injections, which deliver anti-inflammatory corticosteroid medication directly into the painful area. This helps reduce inflammation pressing on nerves and provides localized pain relief. Many patients experience immediate pain relief from a corticosteroid injection, but the effects are temporary. Most people get 1-6 weeks of symptom relief until the medication wears off.
Repeated corticosteroid injections come with risks like tissue atrophy, osteoporosis, and immunosuppression. Therefore, they are spaced out to around 3-4 months apart. The goal is to use them sparingly to interrupt pain cycles while pursuing definitive treatment of the underlying condition causing pain. The duration of relief tends to be shorter with each subsequent injection. Factors like precise injection technique and anatomy of the affected area also influence duration.
Various selective nerve block injections can offer more targeted neck pain relief by disrupting pain signal transmission. Medial branch nerve blocks involve injecting anesthetic numbing medication onto the medial branch nerves that transmit pain signals from the facet joints. They offer several months of pain relief by essentially turning off the pain signaling to the brain from the arthritic or inflamed joints.
Main nerve branch blocks like a cervical epidural can also provide targeted neck pain relief by numbing a larger distribution of nerves. Pain relief duration is similar, providing months of benefits before nerve signals regenerate. This helps break the pain cycle while determining if surgical options like rhizotomies could provide long-term relief by destroying targeted nerves.
Trigger Point Injections
Muscle knotted trigger points that radiate pain upon palpation often occur with neck pain. Injecting anesthetic medication directly into trigger points provides immediate, short-term relief by numbing the tight muscle area. People may get weeks to months of pain relief until the medication wears off and muscles knot up again. The goal is aborting pain cycles while addressing perpetuating factors like poor posture.
Unlike the other temporary options, proliferative injections like prolotherapy are designed to stimulate long-term healing of damaged connective tissue and joints. Non-pharmacological irritant agents like dextrose are injected into weakened ligaments, tendons, and joints to induce mild inflammation. This kicks off the body’s wound healing cascade, strengthening damaged structures. Most people need 4-6 prolotherapy treatment sessions spaced 1 month apart to achieve maximal connective tissue repair and pain relief. Studies show the results can last over a year.
Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy has emerged as another longer-lasting injection option for neck pain. The patient’s own blood is drawn and spun to concentrate growth factor-rich platelets, which are then injected into the painful area. The platelets release growth factors to stimulate local stem cells and promote soft tissue remodeling and healing. PRP takes 2-3 treatment sessions to achieve benefits lasting an average of a year or more by regenerating damaged tissue.
To provide sustained pain relief, injections work best when paired with physical therapy, chiropractic care, and fixing mechanical or postural issues perpetuating the problem. Younger patients with no structural damage and acute inflammatory pain may only need a single injection. Those with chronic degenerative changes may require more frequent or ongoing injections to manage pain along with surgery. Lifestyle factors like weight, activity level, stress, and medications also affect duration of relief.
Communicating openly with your doctor about your pain relief expectations and duration from neck injections allows setting realistic goals. While no injection offers permanent relief, they can facilitate active rehabilitation to resolve the root causes of neck pain. The right combination provides both short and long-term pain control.