Steroid injections for back pain decrease inflammation at the source of the patient's pain, explains Spine-health. Injections cause fewer side effects than oral medications and provide effective short-term pain relief. Additionally, patients who have less pain usually participate more fully in the rehabilitative exercise programs essential to their recovery.
Doctors also use spinal injections to diagnose disorders of the spine and spinal nerves, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons reports. In these cases, the doctor injects a short-acting local anesthetic into a specific nerve or joint. If the injection relieves the patient's pain, the doctor uses a more permanent technique, such as injecting a long-acting steroid or "burning" the nerve with radiofrequency ablation, to provide long-term relief.
While spinal injections have been used for the treatment of back pain since 1952, their long-term efficacy is still highly debated, notes Spine-Health. Pain relief usually lasts between one week and one year.