Hi! Just my 2 cents worth re: the epidurals. I agree, it can be just another "hoop" they make you jump thru on your way to something bigger (like my fusion, say) but yes, some people DO get good relief from them. I never did & like Gramps, most of them increased my discomfort. I had my 4 facets done, bilateral L4/L5 joints, + 2 epidurals directly into my DDD (L5/S1) area + then the SI joints too. All over a period of 4 months, prior to my 3rd spinal surgery last month. Whew! Tried it all! To no avail!
And I agree w/ Ruth, too: be sure your doc is experienced & uses X-ray guidance, esp in that area, as anything directly into the epidural area can pose a lot of risk, being so close to your dura & the internal spine itself.
And if you're offered some Versed (makes you aware, but you just don't care!) take it! I was "out" for all 9 of my shots, so at least your physical/mental perception of the injections' pain themselves can be reduced. Plus I was always a basket case b4 any of them, b/c of the CP in that very tender area & not really wanting anyone or anything going in there!
One more thing: in order for my neurosurgeon to "have permission" from my insurance co to do the fusion, I had to have: PT, TENs, injections & meds, to "prove" that everything else had been tried & failed, so look at it as either a "cure" or just another hoop...but either way, I hope you get some relief! Back pain is never over, but it can sometimes be reduced w/ the right treatments.
Good luck! :)