MONDAY, Aug. 2 (HealthDay News) -- A new study suggests that
injecting steroids straight into the spinal nerve might serve as an
alternative to surgery for a kind of back pain known as sciatica
when it's caused by herniated discs.
However, two experts said the findings don't tell the whole
According to the study authors, steroid injections can reduce
the pain of sciatica. But research has suggested that, depending on
where the injection is given, it doesn't work well compared to a
placebo and a local anesthetic.
But one kind of steroid injection, known as transforaminal,
sends the shots directly into the spinal nerve.
In the new study, researchers tried five injection strategies to
treat sciatica on 150 patients.
More than half of patients treated with transforaminal
injections reported pain relief. Only 7 percent of those treated
with a local anesthetic did. The next most successful treatment was
intramuscular steroid injections, which improved pain in 21 percent
of patients who got it.
The study appeared in the current issue of
The transforaminal injections offer a modest immediate effect,
but it's "substantial, and is not simply a placebo effect," study
co-author Dr. Nikolai Bogduk, a researcher at the University of
Newcastle in Australia, said in a news release from the journal's
The study suggests the injections can be an alternative to
surgery, but it doesn't prove that, said Brook I. Martin, a
researcher at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H.
Other research, he said, has not shown that injections reduce the
need for surgery or painkiller use.
Dr. Nick Shamie, an orthopedic surgeon at the University of
California at Los Angeles School of Medicine, cautioned that
sciatica patients should look upon injections skeptically. They can
be helpful, he said, but "chances are you don't need it, and even
if you get the procedure it will not have lasting benefits."
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more on