It’s a common problem that most would do anything to be rid of, but steroids might not help your back pain and their effects might just be temporary. It seems regular epidural steroid injections are not the surgery-free solution most believe it to be.
In fact, according to a new study, it will only delay the inevitable and even cause unnecessary health risk for the patient, only because they’re afraid of undergoing operation for their pain problems. Researcher have gone over 38 studies regarding cases of herniated disc, spinal stenosis and other conditions, analyzing the benefits of injections versus the placebo effect.
According to the lead author of the study, Dr. Roger Chou, professor of medicine at the Oregon Health & Science University, back pain is a condition that can disappear with time, but patients are often rushing to gain relief by resorting to any kind of means possible. Except surgery.
The popularity of epidural steroid injections has grown along the years, and it’s widely considered to be due to the general fear of the population of going under the knife in an operating room. Some believe that the injections may even have long term effects, but according to Chou, that is merely the hope of a patient in pain, and unfortunately not a realistic prospect for the future.
Infection and nerve injury are two of the possible side effects of prolonged injections, which might only prevent pain and discomfort for six weeks. However, a worrying fact is that those treated with placebo did not fare any worse, so it eliminates the benefits of the medication and no longer supports their recommendation from medical health professionals.
Cases of herniated disc and spinal stenosis account for between 3% or %4 of back pain problems, but neither are highly improved by epidural steroid injections. In fact, patients with herniated disc saw only a mild improvement in pain and slightly decreased need for surgery, no matter the degree of pain or type of medication.
Patients with spinal stenosis, on the other hand, saw absolutely no improvement of injections in comparison to the placebo.
There are financial benefits, however, that might draw patients to resort to steroid injections regardless of their benefits or lack thereof. Dr. Nick Shamie, a professor of orthopedic spine surgery at the Los Angeles School of Medicine, states that the cost is not worth it and surgery is still the best treatment.
The question now stands as to why it would be worth offering the temporary option then, but patients are often frightened of surgery and might resort to any means to avoid it. However, they are advised not to fool themselves into thinking it’s a permanent solution to a common problem.
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