Back, Neck, and Sciatica pain can be very severe, and anyone who has suffered with this pain knows just how debilitating it can be. Most would probably do just about anything to be rid of it. When traditional therapies such as Physical Therapy or Chiropractic aren't working or the patient is in too much pain to do them, doctors will often suggest getting a shot of cortisone steroids in the injured area. But these injections are a bit of a mystery for many people, and they often have many questions about them: What are these shots? What do they do? What are the side effects? So before agreeing to get one or more of these injections, this is what you need to know about them first!
The intended use of cortisone injections is to reduce inflammation in the area for a period of time, usually between 6 weeks and 6 months. When the inflammation is reduced so is the amount of pain, and the patient can once again go about their day to day activities while also resuming therapy for their injury. This is the best case scenario, but there are also many dangers to getting cortisone injections. The biggest worry is that the shot can cause damage to the soft tissue at the area of injection. And multiple shots to that area can cause the soft tissue to break down even faster and potentially make the injury much worse.
Another issue is that the success rate of the cortisone shot can vary depending on what is causing the back pain and how severe it is. It has been estimated that these injections only work about half the time to relieve the patient's pain. Not only that, but they tend to only relieve the symptoms for a short amount of time, or maybe not at all. Because of this these is a lot of skepticism about how effective these injections are and if they are even appropriate for some patients.
There are several side effects associated with receiving cortisone shots. They range from minor annoyances to potentially dangerous problems. These side effects include:
- Facial Flushing
- High Blood Pressure
- Increase In Back Pain
- Severe Hip Arthritis
- Stomach Ulcers
In addition to the side effects mentioned above, there are also several major risks associated with cortisone injections. There is risk in any invasive procedure, and with these the potential risk is sometimes even more dangerous because the spine is such a sensitive area, and even the smallest mistake can cause major problems. Some of the risk factors include:
- Bleeding, which although rare can be a problem with patients with bleeding disorders.
- A Dural Puncture, or sometimes called a "wet tap", is a headache that most likely occurs within the first three days after a lumbar puncture. It can cause auditory changes such as tinnitus, photophobia, and visual changes, and in some rare cases a blood patch may be needed to alleviate the headache.
- Infections, although also rare, have been known to occur. There have been outbreaks of meningitis across the United States caused by steroid injections.
- Nerve damage, which can occur from bleeding, infection, or by direct trauma caused by the needle.
- Temporary numbness of the bladder and bowels.
Before deciding to get an cortisone injection, it is very important to weigh all the potential risks and benefits of doing so. Are the risks really worth the short term relief?
At the Illinois Back Institute we strive to educate everyone as much as possible about their back pain and sciatica, because it is proven that the more people know about their problem the more likely they are to eliminate it!
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