Steroid Shots No Better For Back Pain Than Placebo
How well do steroid shots work to reduce pain from radiculopathy or spinal stenosis? Not well, according to recent research.
In a review of 30 placebo-controlled studies of epidural steroid injections, researchers from Oregon Health & Science University found that steroid shots work no better than placebos for back pain.
While the shots provided some temporary pain relief and improvement in function, the effect lasted for no longer than six weeks and patients in many cases still required surgery.
Anecdotally, researchers said there could be financial reasons why the injections continue to be offered, but also that practitioners likely did not want to see patients in terrible pain and wanted to offer at least something that could provide some temporary relief.
Another option for patients is low level laser therapy: Research has demonstrated that the modality is better than placebo in providing pain relief for patients with acute neck pain with radiculopathy. It is also being used to treat spinal stenosis.
Steroid shots are commonly used for back pain, but evidence that they work no better than placebos is mounting.
In a review published Monday in Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers combined data from 30 placebo-controlled studies of epidural steroid injections for radiculopathy (back pain that radiates to the legs) and eight studies of spinal stenosis (back or neck pain caused by narrowing of the spinal canal).
The study showed that for radiculopathy, injections provided some short-term pain relief, but over time were no more likely to be helpful than placebos, and they did not reduce the need for later surgery.
This article excerpt, by Nikolas Bakalar, originally appeared here: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/08/24/steroid-shots-no-better-for-back-pain-than-placebo/?_r=1.
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