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Do Steroids Really Help With Low Back Pain?

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Injections of steroids into the lumbar epidural space are frequently used for [tag] low back[/tag] and related radicular leg pains. The question is do they work?
In a recent article in HealthDay, Robert Preidt reports that steroid shots provide only somewhat limited and short-term [tag]ease for lower back pain[/tag] that radiates down the leg. This report comes from the new guideline from the American Academy of Neurology. The researchers broke down studies on the stroids and reasoned that epidural steroid injections may provide some pain relief for between two to six weeks, but the average pain relief is minor.

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Some pain relief is a positive result the extent of leg and back pain relief from these steroid injections, on average, came short of the rates typically deemed meaningful. This is the conclusion of Dr. Carmel Armon, a professor of neurology at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston and chief neurology at Bayside Medical Center in Springfield, Mass.

Dr. Armon and the other researchers also concluded that steroid injections don't provide long-term pain relief beyond three months and usually don't help patients avoid surgery. The use of these injections for these purposes is therefore not recommended, according to the guideline.

The use of steroid injections to treat chronic back pain is increasing despite limited quality data. Recent estimates show 1999 Medicare Part B claims for lumbar epidural steroid injections were $49.9 million, for 40.4 million people. The guideline authors also said on that point there is not sufficient evidence to use epidural steroid injections to treat neck pain or radicular cervical pain. The guideline is published in the March 6 issue of Neurology.

Regardless of this study some have found that if the problem is back and leg pain triggered lumbar disc herniations, and if fluoroscopy is used to guide the injection directly to the affected nerve roots they can be beneficial. Consultation with a back speialist may show you that the injections can often help, but with other diagnoses the rate of success is not as great.

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