Cortisone shot into S1/L5 – effective but not complete pain relief September 2018


Yesterday I had a cortisone shot into S1/L5.  I was lucky, in that the radiologist agreed to do both sides on the same day. Most doctors won’t do this. In the past (and I’ve had this done several times) the doctors have insisted on doing one side at a time. And one level at a time. So by the time they have done all the relevant levels, the first level is painful again.  So I never get complete relief.

This morning when I woke up I didn’t have a knife in my lumbar spine.  I had pain, but these are deep aches, and they are manageable.  Most of the pain was also at a higher level.  Added to that, the severe pain was sporadic, only if I moved a certain way.  And it was possible to be pain free, by sitting with good posture on the couch.

Pain free!

Obviously, moving at all changed that, but being able to sit still and get pain relief is a gift.

And then I tried to vacuum.  That was a mistake, because the pain is more knifelike now, but still less than ‘normal’.  Maybe a “7” to my usual “8”.  And if I rest, I can take that down to a “6”.  That’s still a big deal, but it’s a bit disappointing.  The point of pain relief is to be more functional (aside from the actual pain relief, which is also nice.)  If I am not more functional, the risks might outweigh the benefits.

I do believe most of the pain is at a higher level though. I intend to go back to my GP and ask for bilateral cortisone shots into L4/L5 and hope for similar relief.

ALL my lumbar spine levels have torn or bulging disks, all have spondylosis and stenosis, and all the facet joints are severely arthritis.  I would likely need all levels to be treated for true, meaningful pain relief, but no doctor will do that.  Next best thing is getting the lower two or three levels ablated.  The expense for a radiofrequency ablation is the sticking point though. That and the only doctor who does them in Canberra refuses to do more than one level and side at a time. And he requires 6 weeks between ablations.  So I would need to come back at least 4 times over the course of three months. This means an out of pocket cost of around $6,000, and more sedation than I’m willing to undergo.

It’s a pure money grab and I don’t respect him as a doctor.

I am on the public waiting list, and they will make me jump through several hoops (a pain management course that I have already done, amongst other things) and I’m told it takes at least two years to get actual treatment. But this pain will still be there in two years, so I’m on the list and one day I’ll get to the top.

In the meantime, I’ll take any relief I can get, and at least this is something.


  1. Same for me. I recently had two facet join injections and I don’t feel as much pain relief as I was expecting. Very disappointed. It is “better” but not by much.. and I am sadly finding a lot of people feel the same. Hoping we all find some way to lessen the pain.

    • I feel like doctors over estimate the effectiveness of their treatments, and if we tell them so, they just figure we’re hypochondriacs with a low pain tolerance. I’m sorry I didn’t answer sooner…I find the shots vary widely. Some are fantastic..others do jack. I hope you’re doing ok x


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