Q:

For what reasons are spinal injections of steroids given?

A:

Quick Answer

Steroid injections in the spine help to reduce pain and inflammation in the back and neck, according to Harvard Health Publications. The medicine in the injections mimics the hormones cortisone and hydrocortisone. While these injections do not always work, when they do, they bring relief from severe pain, including pain from ruptured discs.

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Full Answer

Most patients receive a limited number of epidural steroid injections each year due to the weakening of muscles and bones they cause, according to Mayo Clinic. The problem is due to the action of steroids on the body’s natural hormone balance. Limiting the number of injections that the patient receives gives his body time to restore its normal balance.

In rare cases, the injections have severe side effects, including brain damage, stroke, paralysis or death, according to Dr. James P. Rathmell, as published in Harvard Health Publications. While the data is limited, Rathmell believes the chances of these rare side effects are less than 1 in 10,000. He recommends considering the risks along with the benefits.

In most patients, the injections are part of an overall treatment plan that also includes stretching and strengthening exercises. Such programs help to maintain flexibility and stability, limiting future pain, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

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