A new study by the University of Washington in Seattle suggests that lower back pain caused by spinal stenosis is unlikely to be alleviated by steroid injections. However, some specialists are not ready to dismiss them as totally devoid of benefits.
Spinal stenosis is commonly treated by injections containing a combination of local anaesthetic and corticosteroid. They are thought to ease pain by reducing the inflammation and swelling around the compressed spinal nerves.
But researchers found that patients whose lidocaine anesthetic was supplemented with a corticosteroid experienced minimal to no additional benefit compared with patients who received injections of anesthetic alone.
Given the common use of steroid shots in the treatment of spinal stenosis, the findings come as a surprise, according to Dr. Janna Friedly, assistant professor and lead author of the study. Since this traditional method appears to be of little or no help, Friedly advises individuals to consider alternative approaches to dealing with the condition. Other options for patients include exercise and surgery.
However, it is unwise to completely dismiss steroid injections, according toDr. Gunnar Andersson from Chicago´s Rush University Medical Center. They do work for some spinal stenosis patients although others may experience only short-lived benefits or none at all, he said.
Andersson pointed out that there is no universal treatment for the underlying conditions of spinal stenosis. Moreover, no cure has a lasting effect on the condition. The doctor said that he advises patients to try this approach first before resorting to surgery.
The major problem with steroids is their overuse, Andersson noted. A lot of patients receive numerous shots over long periods of time, which is not justified. If one injection leads to improvement, another one could be administered. However, going beyond that is not recommended, Anderson said.