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Study Finds Steroid Injections to Treat Back Pain May Increase Risk of Spinal Fracture

Back pain is one of the most disabling conditions that a person can suffer from, and very often the pain is so debilitating that it no longer allows the person to work. A recent study, however, showed evidence that some back pain sufferers may also be at risk of a spinal fracture if they are taking steroid injections for pain.

The study was published in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, and suggests that older patients who suffer from low bone density should be particularly cautious when receiving steroid injections.

At issue are lumbar epidural steroid injections, which are injections into the spine where the nerve is being compressed, usually due to a spinal stenosis or herniated disc. While it has been widely accepted in medical literature for years that the use of steroid injections over a period of time can lead to a decrease in bone mineral density, this new research goes a step further by linking this lowered bone mineral density to the more serious spinal fracture.

As part of the study, more than 3,000 patients who had been given steroid injections for back pain were analyzed. The patient group was then compared to another group of 3,000 patients who received alternative treatment for their back pain. Researchers found that approximately 150 patients from the injection group were later diagnosed with a spinal fracture.

More research will be necessary to determine whether the risks of spinal steroid injections outweigh the benefits. However, the lesson we can all take is to make sure that you are not only receiving treatment for your conditions, but also that you are receiving the right treatment based on your unique circumstances. It’s also very important to know the risks associated with any treatment plan, and how you can alter your activities and lifestyle to minimize them.