T Nation

Cortisone Injection for Bulged Disc


Hi guys. Was thinking of getting a cortisone injection for my bulged disc (L4/L5, L5/S1). I have had these for 2 years and i still have numbness in the lateral part of my foot. Just wondering others experiences with cortisone injections with bulged discs/sciatica?



I have bulges in the exact same area as you and have had a cortisone shot done. It did reduce inflammation, but I didn't feel that it addressed the real issue (the disc being bulged...) so it didn't work long term or allow me to get back to lifting.

Still, give it a try and take more time off and maybe it will work for you.


I had a 5mm bulge at L4-L5. Tried oral steroidal dose pack and rehab approach and symptoms worsened. At that point, I went with the Epidural Steroidal Injection - after 2 shots in the series of 3, I felt amazing. I also did rehabilitation at the same time and didnt solely rely on the shots to "cure it all". I am back to lifting with minimal issues.

The ESI, if done properly and quickly enough, should help shrink the disc bulge slightly while decreasing surrounding inflammation. I feel that, in combination with mckenzie protocol drill (which was proper for my disc bulge) helped symptoms to subside drastically.


After reading your post again, since it has been 2 years, results for you may not be as good. It is unfortunate to say, but statistics show that disc symptoms that continue for extended periods of time tend to linger on longer and may not fully resolve. The ESI is best done as quickly as possible when it is appropriate. Think of it this way, the disc has bulged and it has been 2 years - the surrounding tissue and surface of the disc are now going to scar down to prevent any further bulging, but that scaring will also limit the amount that the disc fluid can recede.

This doesn't mean to give up on it, especially if you haven't gone for any formal therapy. Just increasing lumbar stability, performing mckenzie's (if appropriate), and getting some manual therapy can be very beneficial.


Thanks for the replys. I still have muscle wastage in the calf and numnness in the foot. I am now trying neural flossing as shown on a McGill DVD. I am hoping this may help with the scarring. I am seeing a sports doctor this afternoon so I will see what he has top say.


I am in the same situation gmorr and am finally getting a correct diagnoses from the doctors about my back. It has been roughly two years for me as well and I had it under control for a good year before my symptoms started to come back.

I will be looking into getting the injections but first I am consulting with a spinal specialist and a top notch PT who specializes in back issues before I give it a go. I never was formally given the McKenzie protocol and just did the extensions on my own. I am hoping now that I can actually work with a McKenzie certified PT that I can resolve most of my issues.


I have had disc problems in the same area. I had an epidural about one month ago. It has helped to reduce the inflammation and eliminated many of the associated symptoms. Most importantly for me, I am now able to rehab and strengthen myself more aggressively than I could when I was hurt.

I hope this will help me dodge another surgery.


This is my story...
Did cortisone shots(series of 3 and 1 with X-rays). Did not help.
L4/S1 gone....took pain meds for 17 years. No surgery. Back is actually better. Most surgeries end in more pain and different pain. AVOID surgery at all cost. Yes, even when it hurts. I could not walk for more than 10 minutes at one time. Thank God I was hurt in the military or I would have been screwed. If you have the financial means to avoid the knife doc, do it! Not everyone can afford this, but if you can wait it out. It will get better eventually. Prayer helps;-}


You L4/S1 is gone because of the shots? Or are you talking about the bulge itself? I hope the cortisone didn't ruin the disc...