When dealing with lower back pain, some conventional doctors seem to be willing to hand out steroid injections like candy to treat the issue. However, there are certain dangers associated with anti-inflammatory steroid injections that you should be aware of. Today we will specifically look at the risks related to lumbar epidural steroid injections. Not only are these injections associated with an increased risk of vertebral body fractures, but they are also linked to other serious side effects, and don’t offer long-term pain relief.
In a study on epidural steroid injections and the risk of vertebral fractures, as published in The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, 3,000 patients who received steroid injections and 3,000 patients who didn’t receive steroid injections were taken into account. The data from this study tells a chilling story, as individuals who received five steroid injections had a 105% increase in vertebral body fractures, while subjects who received a single injection had a 21% increase in vertebral fractures. Overall, every subsequent injection increased the risk of fractures by about another 20% from baseline.
Vertebral fractures are scary enough, but there are even more side effects associated with injections like nerve damage, stroke, paralysis, and even death. This has given many medical professionals a reason to pause and access whether steroid injections are causing more harm than good.
In fact, many medical research teams are coming to the conclusion that steroid injections have failed us when used to treat low back pain, sciatica, and spinal stenosis. Overall, most patients who receive an injection experience some initial relief, which can make it seem like it is effective. However, steroid injections offer no more long-term results than placebo saline injections according to multiple randomized trials.
Since steroid injections haven’t been shown to offer any long-term positive results, while they come with a whole host of serious side effects, it should be clear that using steroids as a treatment option isn’t a viable solution to the problem. Instead of using steroids to treat lower back pain, research has shown that chiropractic care offers a solution without unneeded risk. Since chiropractic care targets the true cause of back pain, the spinal dysfunction that brought about the pain in the first place, patients are often able to obtain long-term relief through these manipulation techniques.
Furthermore, chiropractors are experts on the spinal column, while general medical doctors do not usually focus on it exclusively. If your doctor has suggested the use of a steroid injection for lower back pain, it is a great idea to receive a second opinion from a chiropractor. Chiropractors offer a long-term solution to lower back pain by making the necessary adjustments and offering non-invasive treatment options, while doctors who opt to administer injections are only looking to reduce pain in the short-term. Since most cases of lower back pain stem from spinal dysfunction, treating the cause of this problem at its roots is the only way to find a long-term solution to the issue.
Mandel S, Schilling J, Peterson E., Rao DS, Sanders W. A Retrospective Analysis of Vertebral Body Fractures Following Epidural Steroid Injections. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2013;95:961-4.
Dr. DeFabio is a highly regarded chiropractor in Chicago who focuses on helping his patients achieve optimal health and wellness. He takes a holistic approach to care, treating symptoms and addressing underlying issues to promote long-term healing. Dr. DeFabio is passionate about empowering his patients to take control of their health and live their best lives. You can find him surfing, skateboarding, and volunteering at the Lakeview Food Pantry when he’s not in the office.