Steroid Shots Provide Little Relief for Low Back Pain

Panel finds epidurals don't provide long-term benefit beyond 3 months

MONDAY, March 5, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Epidural steroid injections provide limited short-term -- but no long-term -- relief for lower back pain that radiates down a leg, according to a new guideline from the American Academy of Neurology.

The authors of the guideline analyzed studies on the topic and concluded that epidural steroid injections may provide some pain relief for between two to six weeks, but the average amount of pain relief is minor.

"While some pain relief is a positive result in and of itself, the extent of leg and back pain relief from epidural steroid injections, on the average, fell short of the values typically viewed as clinically meaningful," noted guideline author Dr. Carmel Armon, chief of the division of neurology at Bayside Medical Center in Springfield, Mass., and a professor of neurology at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston.

The authors also concluded that epidural steroid injections don't provide long-term pain relief beyond three months and usually don't help patients "buy time" to avoid surgery. The use of these injections for these purposes is not recommended, says the guideline.

"The use of epidural steroid injections to treat chronic back pain is increasing over time despite limited quality data. Recent figures show 1999 Medicare Part B claims for lumbar epidural steroid injections were $49.9 million, for 40.4 million covered individuals," Armon said in a prepared statement.

The guideline authors also said 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.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about low back pain.

SOURCE: American Academy of Neurology, news release, March 5, 2007
Consumer News