Can Steroid shots help alleviate your lower back pain? Find Out!

steroids for lower back painIf your lower back pain had you running all over the place for years and you are finally considering steroid injections for healing it, it’s time you held your horses and did a serious rethink. Though word of mouth may convince you to zero in on steroids for lower back pain, research has proven otherwise!

A recent Australian study proved that these shots do very little to alleviate sciatica – a common condition leading to leg and back pain, and is nothing but a waste of time.

Reuters report that

“In the study, which analyzed results from nearly two dozen clinical trials on thousands of patients, Australian researchers found that epidural injections – into the spine – of corticosteroids had no long- or short-term effect on sciatica back pain, and such a short-term impact on leg pain that it would make no difference to the patient.”

One of the research associates, Chris Maher of The George Institute for Global Health in Sydney, Australia thus concluded that this treatment has little or no use at all.

Past studies on sciatica (which was thought to be caused by nerve damage) too have questioned the effectiveness of spinal steroid shots.

The study conducted in 2012 by Maher and his colleagues was based on 23 clinical trials representing about 2,300 patients, whose pain was ranked on a scale of 0 to 100. The higher the pain the greater was the number.

The research showed that the injections didn’t make much of a difference over short or long periods of time. And the improvement rate was same as those who received placebos.

This is quite a significant news given the fact that ,

“the use of epidural steroid injections to treat back pain of all sorts among Medicare patients nearly doubled from 741,000 in 2000 to about 1,438,000 in 2004”

as reported in the Daily Mail.

However, Kirkham Wood, Chief of the orthopedic spine service at Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital points out

“In general, I think we’ve learned over the years that the epidural injections are turning out to be less and less successful… but there are times when they should be considered.”

But before you decide to consider steroid shots:

Consider the side effects and risks

  • Infection: It is a rare case but the chances are 0.1 to 0.01%.
  • Dural puncture: Chances are 0.5%. A blood patch may be required to alleviate what is known as “spinal headache.”
  • Bleeding: Common for patients having underlying bleeding disorders.
  • Nerve damage: It can occur from direct trauma from the needle or from infection or bleeding.
  • Salynn Boyles of WebMD states that,

    “The study suggests that epidural shots increase the risk of spinal bone fracture, and researchers say patients with bone loss should be warned about this risk.”

So bid adieu to steroid shots and opt for the conventional methods of pain removal:

  • Prescription drugs
  • Chiropractor
  • Exercises
  • Hot and cold massage
  • And if nothing works, there is surgery

Now all the cards are before you. Choose wisely.