Back, Neck, and Sciatica pain can be severe and debilitating. Anyone who has suffered with this pain knows just how bad it can be, and most would do just about anything to be rid of it. Often times, when regular therapies such as Physical Therapy or Chiropractic aren't working or the patient is in too much pain to do them, doctors will suggest getting a Cortisone Steroid Shot in the injured area. But many people do not know much about these injections. What are these shots? What do they do? What are the side effects? These are the things people NEED to know about Cortisone shots before agreeing to get one.
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Steroid shots such as cortisone are supposed to work by reducing inflammation in the area of the injection for an extended period of time, usually somewhere between 6 weeks to 6 months. By reducing the inflammation, the pain is relieved, allowing the patient to resume therapy or other daily activities. However, there is a danger to getting cortisone injections, the main one being that they cause damage to the soft tissue surrounding the injured area of the spine. And multiple shots in the same area can accelerate how quickly that soft tissue degenerates, which can make the injury worse in the long term.
Also, it is estimated that cortisone shots help relieve the patient's pain only about 50% of the time; the success rate varies depending on the cause of the back pain and how severe the condition is. Plus they tend to only relieve the symptoms of back pain for a short period of time; from about a year at most to potentially only one week! Because of this, there is a lot of skepticism about the effectiveness of the injections and if it is even appropriate to inject 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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