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Steroid Injections for Treating Back Pain

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Steroid Injections for Treating Back Pain

  • Dr. Charla Fischer
  • May 28, 2021

Time is usually the best healer for many types of back pain. It seems you just cannot rush nature when it comes to this part of the body. Many people who experience back pain are able to slowly resume their activities as pain dissipates over time. During this period, Spine surgeon Dr. Charla Fischer says it is important to remain as active as you can and take over-the-counter medications to help. Some people are unable to handle the pain that back issues may cause and seek medical help for more extensive treatment. An example includes steroid injections into the affected area, especially when the pain is related to nerves in the back.

Steroid injections can reduce tissue and joint inflammation for a time, but they are not able to make healing faster or prevent back pain from returning. These shots are used to control symptoms of back problems, not heal the underlying condition causing pain.

Various medications are used for spine injections, most commonly a mixture of a numbing drug such as Novocain and the anti-inflammatory drug cortisone. Dr. Fischer decides upon the exact mixture for each patient based on the location and severity of the patient’s pain. The injection is administered directly into the targeted area and the first effect you’ll feel is the numbing agent doing its job. Back pain may temporarily return as the numbness goes away, but after 24 to 48 hours you should feel the benefits of the cortisone shot.

The bad news is that steroid injections are not always successful, and it is difficult to predict which patients will benefit from them. If the shot does its job, you will experience pain relief and be glad you got the injection. However, you can expect the pain associated with a chronic back condition to return after a few months even after a successful injection. Patients who take the chance on getting steroid injections and receive the benefits do achieve comfort for awhile from their back pain.

Most experienced physicians like Dr. Fischer limit the number of steroid injections a patient can receive to 3 to 4 in one year. This is because too many of these types of injections in one area of the body may damage tissues. It can also thin the skin at the injection site. It is uncommon for cortisone injections to have significant side effects, but sometimes infection or damage to a nerve or blood vessel may occur.

Other options
Any reputable spine physician will explain that steroid injections are not for simple back strains or similar aches. They are recommended instead for cases like shooting nerve pain from sciatica or a herniated disc or pain related to a serious condition like spinal stenosis. Even in these types of cases, Dr. Fischer first goes with more conservative treatment methods. Less invasive treatments include over-the-counter medications, prescription medications, physical therapy and more. Your doctor will also instruct you to keep moving instead of laying in bed for long periods. If you try more conservative approaches with no relief, contact Dr. Fischer to see if it is time to try steroid injections for your back pain.

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