Back Pain Shots-Injecting steroids in the area around the spinal cord, known as epidural, is the most widely used treatment for back pain, but a recent review of the study shows that injecting any fluid, even a common saline solution, also works well.
The researchers collected the results of 43 studies with more than 3,600 patients who received several types of injections for back pain. As expected, they found evidence that epidural steroid injections gave more help than steroid injections to the muscles.
But research published online in Anesthesiology also found that there is little difference between the amount of help given by steroids and non-steroidal epidural injections.
The researchers suggest that any fluid injected through the epidural can help reduce inflammation, increase blood flow to the nerves and clean scar tissue.
“Epidural steroid injection can provide mild relief for up to two months in people with back pain due to nerve inflammation,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Steven P. Cohen, associate professor of anesthesiology at Johns Hopkins.
But steroids have side effects, and “most of the short-term benefits do not seem to be from steroids, but from local anesthetics and saline substances, which can ‘calm’ the inflamed nerves that send pain signals,” said Dr. Cohen. “Physicians should consider significantly reducing steroid doses, or even not using steroids in high-risk patients.”