Mend Physical Therapy Blog and Injury Information

Steroid Shots No Better for Back Pain Than Placebo

August 30, 2022

The use of low back injections is often utilized for patients with low back pain and nerve pain (radicular pain) and/or leg numbness, pins and needles, or nerve root weakness (radiculopathy). In an older adult these symptoms may be due to a narrowing of the canals in which the low back nerve roots exit (lumbar stenosis). These steroid injections are costly and not without risk including a number of cases of infection in 2013-2014. A recent review of the available literature published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found limited effectiveness of these treatments compared to placebo trials for both low back pain, radiculopathy and stenosis. Here is a review in the New York Times. Chou et al. and colleagues reported injections for low back pain or radiculopathy may offer a small, short-term effect but long term effectiveness is limited. In patients with low back pain and lumbar stenosis the evidence reported little to no effectiveness on pain or function. Physical Therapy is the first line intervention for patients with these low back pain.