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Steroid Injections Prove Ineffective For Back Pain

A new study has found that spinal injections to treat pinched nerves or other forms of back pain may cause more harm than good.

According to the study published in the journal Spine, researchers found significantly less improvement among those receiving spinal injections, compared to those who did not. The study looked at 69 patients who had spinal injections and 207 patients who did not over four years. The patients ranged between ages 53 and 75, and were selected from a larger spinal health study.

The drug injections also didn't increase the risk of infection and other complications, despite some previous safety concerns.

However, the lead author of the study acknowledges the fact the study was small, and there might have been factors the study could not control. It's possible, researchers said, that higher doses of steroids or may do a better job of easing pain in this notoriously hard-to-treat group of patients. Or people might get more pain relief if the shots are given as-needed, instead of at set intervals.

Recently, spinal injections were in the news when a contaminated batch from a compounding pharmacy in Massachusetts infected hundreds of patients with meningitis, and killed over 20 people. An estimated 14,000 people were said to be at risk.

Meningitis is the swelling of the protective membranes that cover the brain and spine, and symptoms include severe headache, nausea, dizziness and fever.

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Source: The New York Times, "Back Pain Unrelieved By Steroid Shots," March, 5, 2013.


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