A new study points out that steroid shots temporarily alleviate lower back pain. These are called spinal epidural injections that reduce lower back pain due to a ruptured disc. The study was published in an issue of Annals of Internal Medicine.
However, there has been a degree of confusion regarding the beneficial effects of epidural corticosteroid injections, some claiming that there was no pain relief, whereas other stated that these steroid shots would be beneficial, all in all.
A doctor from Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, Dr. Roger Chou, attempted to clarify the situation by looking into 63 published reports concerning spinal steroid shots used to lessen the lower back pain due to damaged discs or spinal narrowing.
Dr. Chou’s team wrote in the study that epidural steroid injections indeed offered pain relief in patients with ruptured discs, however, these steroid injections did not function properly in sufferers with spinal narrowing, also known as stenosis. Thus, stenosis is the pathological term used to explain the narrowing of a bodily canal, in this case the constriction of the spinal cord. The back pain that extends to the patient’s legs is also known as radiculopathy.
Moreover, these steroid-based injections could decrease the odds of a spinal disc surgical intervention, in short term.
But, considering a longer timeframe, the scientific team said the steroid injections were actually similar to a placebo effect, and would not decrease the need for disc surgery.
The usage of different steroid variants or the way they were injected did not seem to matter after all.
According to the authors, side effects happened as well, such as blood clots and nerve root irritations.
However, Dr. Chou pointed out that even though the effects were limited, some physicians and their patients might attempt to use these epidural corticosteroid injections after all.
Chicago-based Dr. Zack McCormick, specialist in physical medicine and rehabilitation, said that Chou’s studies weren’t relevant. He said that their conclusions “cannot be applied to the realistic day-to-day practice of spine medicine.” But he did admit to the fact that these steroid shots were more or less likely to improve sleep and other lifestyle-related factors, but they would not cure the patients’ illnesses. He concluded that these steroid injections are to be avoided as an isolated means of therapy.
Therefore, it could be reiterated and concluded that epidural steroid injections are similar to a placebo effect in radiculopathy patients, but they have no concise benefits in spinal stenosis sufferers.
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