Systematic review of the effectiveness of cervical epidurals in the management of chronic neck pain

Pain Physician. 2009 Jan-Feb;12(1):137-57.


Background: Chronic neck pain is a common problem in the adult population with a typical 12-month prevalence of 30% to 50%, and 14% of the patients reporting grade II to IV neck pain with high pain intensity and disability that has a substantial impact on health care and society. Cervical epidural injections for managing chronic neck pain are one of the commonly performed interventions in the United States. However, the literature supporting cervical epidural steroids in managing chronic pain problems has been scant and no systematic review dedicated to the evaluation of cervical interlaminar epidurals has been performed in the past.

Study design: A systematic review of cervical interlaminar epidural injections.

Objective: To evaluate the effect of cervical interlaminar epidural injections in managing various types of chronic neck and upper extremity pain emanating as a result of cervical spine pathology.

Methods: The available literature of cervical interlaminar epidural injections in managing chronic neck and upper extremity pain was reviewed. The quality assessment and clinical relevance criteria utilized were the Cochrane Musculoskeletal Review Group criteria as utilized for interventional techniques for randomized trials and the criteria developed by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) criteria for observational studies. The level of evidence was classified as Level I, II, or III based on the quality of evidence developed by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) for therapeutic interventions. Data sources included relevant literature of the English language identified through searches of PubMed and EMBASE from 1966 to November 2008, and manual searches of bibliographies of known primary and review articles.

Outcome measures: The primary outcome measure was pain relief (short-term relief = up to 6 months and long-term > 6 months). Secondary outcome measures were improvement in functional status, psychological status, return to work, and reduction in opioid intake.

Results: The indicated evidence is Level II-1 in managing chronic neck and upper extremity pain with 1C/strong recommendation.

Limitations: The limitations of this systematic review include the paucity of literature and lack of randomized trials performed under fluoroscopy.

Conclusion: The results of this systematic evaluation of cervical interlaminar epidural injection showed significant effect in relieving chronic intractable pain of cervical origin and also providing long-term relief with an indicated evidence level of Level II-1.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics / therapeutic use*
  • Cervical Vertebrae / drug effects
  • Chronic Disease
  • Humans
  • Injections, Epidural / methods*
  • Neck Pain / drug therapy*


  • Analgesics