Questions About Steroid Injections for Back Pain
The use of epidural steroid injections for nerve pain such as sciatica has come into question. The injection is given into the area around the spinal cord called the epidural space.
Sciatica is pain and/or numbness and tingling down the leg. It is caused by pressure on the sciatic nerve. The pain may begin in the low back and go into the buttock, then down the leg. It may only go as far as the knee, but can be felt by some patients all the way to the foot.
A review of the results from high-quality studies has been reported. Only marginal pain relief from sciatica was observed. Complications of this treatment are usually minor and don't last long. The most common problem is a headache after the injection.
The American Academy of Neurology (AAN) has asked for better studies in this area. Are steroid injections safe and effective for chronic pain? How often can they be done? Are there some patients who would benefit more from this treatment than others?
Continued use of epidural steroid injections requires further study. If there isn't enough evidence to support their use, then insurance companies may not continue paying for them.
Epidural Steroids Fall Short. In The BACK Letter. March 2007. Vol. 22. No. 3. Pp. 1, 31.