Question: Are Steroid Injections Safe And How Often Might I Need Them For My Pain?
Answer: Steroid injections can be safely used for the treatment of pain, but the drugs cause effects on several organ systems in the body. If you have medical conditions like congestive heart failure, kidney disease, or diabetes, you should alert your doctor before steroids are injected.
Steroids are often injected to reduce the pain associated with a herniated disc. This procedure is called an epidural steroid injection. Growing evidence suggests that spinal nerves become irritated by chemicals that are released by a herniated disc and that this irritation causes back and shooting leg pain or neck and shooting arm pain. Steroids inhibit these chemicals, reduce inflammation, and suppress abnormal firing from injured nerves. As a result, epidural steroids can help control the pain associated with a herniated disc.
Epidural steroid injections are more effective if your pain shoots from your back or buttock down your leg and past your knee. Or shoots from your neck down your arm, and if your pain has lasted for less than six months. Your response to the steroid injection should help dictate the number of injections you receive.
The beneficial effects of the steroid, that is improvement in pain and in level of function, decrease in time. Therefore, several injections may be needed. However, you should discuss the number of injections needed with your doctor.
Remember, the goal in using epidural steroid injections is to help reduce your pain, allow you to participate in physical therapy, and to assist you in resuming your previous level of activity.