Steroids May Not Be Necessary for Lower Back Pain
Baltimore, MD - New research from Johns Hopkins suggests that it may not be the steroids in spinal shots that provide relief from lower back pain, but the mere introduction of any of a number of fluids, such as anesthetics and saline, to the space around the spinal cord.
For decades, epidural steroid injections have been the most common nonsurgical treatment for lower back pain even though extensive research shows mixed results. Placebo-controlled studies have found benefit only 60 percent of the time and it remains unclear whether the epidural steroids provide long-term pain control or reduce the need for surgery. Meanwhile, experts warn, steroids are a less-than-ideal treatment for some as they can raise blood sugar in diabetic back patients, slow wound healing in those who need surgery and accelerate bone disease in older women.
In a bid to lend some clarity, Johns Hopkins anesthesiologist Steven P. Cohen, M.D., and his colleagues reviewed dozens of published studies on the subject. As expected, they found that epidural steroid shots were more than twice as likely to bring relief as injections of steroids, saline or a local anesthetic like Lidocaine into muscle near the spinal canal. What was less expected, they report in the October issue of the journal Anesthesiology, was that epidural injections of any kind were also twice as good as intramuscular injections of steroids.
“Just injecting liquid into the epidural space appears to work,” says Cohen, a professor of anesthesiology and critical care medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “This shows us that most of the relief may not be from the steroid, which everyone worries about.” Continue>
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