Corticosteroid Injections of Little Benefit for Low Back Pain

HealthDay News — Epidural corticosteroid injections for radicular low back pain or spinal stenosis may provide some relief for certain patients, but any benefits are temporary, according to a review published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

After reviewing 38 previously published studies, the researchers found no strong evidence to support their use for these conditions. “These injections may not be as effective as perceived, and decisions should be based on an informed discussion of risks, benefits, and potential options, including surgery, medications, and nonpharmacological options like exercise therapy,” lead researcher Roger Chou, MD, a professor of medicine at the Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, told HealthDay.

In the case of a herniated disk, Chou said the team found that compared with a placebo, corticosteroid injections were associated with small improvements in pain and decreased risk of surgery in the first few weeks after the injection. But the benefits were no longer present with longer-term follow-up.

“The results appeared to be similar regardless of what type of injection technique was used, what steroid was used, the dose of the steroid, and other factors,” Chou said. For patients with spinal stenosis, “studies found that steroid injections were not effective,” he added.


1. Chou R, et al. Ann. Intern. Med. 2015; doi: 10.7326/M15-0934.