Chronic lower back pain affects millions of Americans. Many try steroid injections to ease their discomfort, but researchers now say this remedy provides only short-term relief.
A study performed in France recently found that people that had steroid injections to relieve back pain had no long term effects. They found that a single injection had the most benefit, but follow up injections had only a limited effect.
Patients rated their pain severity before the injection and again one, three, six and 12 months after the treatment.
One month after treatment, 55 percent of those who got the steroid injection experienced less lower back pain, compared with 33 percent of those who weren’t treated.
“However, the groups did not differ for the assessed outcomes 12 months after the injection,” Nguyen said.
For example, patients who did or didn’t received a steroid injection ended up in similar circumstances, with the same incidence of disc inflammation, lower quality of life, more anxiety and depression and continued use of non-narcotic pain pills, she said.
Overall, most patients found the steroid injections tolerable, and would agree to have a second one if necessary, Nguyen said. “We had no specific safety concerns and found no cases of infection, destruction or calcification of the disc 12 months after the injection,” she added.
The results were published March 21 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
The study doesn’t say that steroid injections should not be used to treat back pain. In certain cases of acute back pain, it can be helpful in the recovery and addressing pain management. People experiencing chronic back pain would be better served seeking alternative methods of treatment.