Can An Epidural Cause Back Pain?

Epidural for labor

During labor, many women opt for an epidural to manage pain and enhance comfort. Some patient worry that this procedure will cause chronic low back pain.

The short answer is that it is exceedingly rare to develop chronic back pain as a result of an epidural. We will discuss more about the procedure and risk of back pain from this article.

Understanding Labor Epidurals

A labor epidural is a commonly used pain management technique during childbirth. It involves the insertion of a small catheter into the epidural space in the lower back. Through this catheter, a combination of local anesthetic and pain-relieving medication is continuously administered, providing pain relief during labor.

Temporary Discomfort and Back Pain

During the insertion of the epidural catheter, it is possible to experience temporary discomfort or mild soreness at the injection site. However, this discomfort is typically short-lived and resolves quickly. The healthcare provider ensures the procedure is performed with utmost care to minimize any potential discomfort.

In some cases, women may experience temporary back pain following a labor epidural. This pain can occur around the injection site or radiate to other areas of the back. Fortunately, this discomfort is usually mild and tends to subside within a few days as the body recovers from the labor process.

Rare Instances of Chronic Back Pain

While lumbar punctures are generally considered safe, it is extremely rare for the procedure itself to cause chronic or long-term back pain. Chronic back pain refers to pain that persists for more than three months.

It is crucial to understand that any prolonged or chronic back pain following an epidural is more likely related to underlying conditions or factors other than the procedure itself. Examples of such factors include pre-existing spinal conditions such as spinal stenosis or degenerative disc disease, unrelated injuries, or coincidental developments.

In rare cases, there can be nerve damage from an epidural. This may result in numbness or tingling which typically resolves in a few days to a few weeks after injury.

Low Back Pain from Pregnancy and Labor Itself

It is worth noting that back pain can result from pregnancy and the labor process itself. The physical demands of labor can put strain on the muscles and ligaments of the pelvis and spine and pre-existing conditions such as spinal stenosis and herniated discs can be exacerbated during labor.

Also during labor, the body releases hormones such as relaxin, which helps to soften the ligaments and joints in the pelvis to facilitate the baby’s passage. These hormonal changes can also affect the stability and alignment of the spine, potentially leading to low back pain. Read more about back pain in pregnancy here.


While some women may experience temporary back pain after receiving an epidural during labor, the likelihood of developing chronic low back pain as a direct result of the procedure is exceedingly rare. It is important to understand that chronic low back pain can have many different causes. If you have concerns or experience persistent low back pain after labor, consulting with your healthcare provider is crucial for a comprehensive evaluation and tailored advice. They can assess your specific situation and recommend appropriate treatments to address your pain effectively.

About the Author

Dave Harrison, MD

Dr. Harrison is a board certified Emergency Physician with a part time appointment at San Francisco General Medical Center and is an Assistant Clinical Professor-Volunteer at the UCSF School of Medicine. Dr. Harrison attended medical school at Tufts University and completed his Emergency Medicine residency at the University of Southern California. Dr. Harrison manages the editorial process for