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Jul 04, 2014 06:39 AM EDT

Steroid Shots Does Little to Help Spinal Stenosis Patients, Study

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People suffering from spinal stenosis are unlikely to get relief from steroid shots, according to a new study by the University of Washington. Researchers recommend patients to consider alternatives like exercise and surgery while seeking treatment.

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, spinal stenosis often occurs in adults over 60 years of age. The condition is often treated with injections of local anesthetic plus steroids. The injections are effective in relieving pain by reducing swelling and inflammation around the compressed spinal nerves, Philly reports.

For the study, researchers assigned 400 people with back and leg pain caused by spinal stenosis to injections of either a local anesthetic (lidocaine) alone or in combination with steroids. The drugs were administered into the outermost area of the spinal canal.

Researchers found that both the groups experienced immediate relief at first. After three weeks, participants who were injected with steroids experienced a slight leg pain and slightly enhanced function. However, no significant difference between the two groups was noticed after six weeks.

The researchers also found that 67 percent of the participants, who received the steroid injection, reported to be content with their treatment as compared to 54 percent of those given lidocaine alone. Participants under the influence of steroid also displayed improvement in symptoms of depression.

Researchers said that since steroids improve mood and reduce fatigue, they might have been behind the increased feelings of satisfaction.

However, patients belonging to the steroids group were associated with lower levels of the hormone cortisol. The side effects of steroids include reduced bone mineral density, increased risk of bone fractures and weakening of the immune system.

The finding is published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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