28-May-15 5:00 AM  CST

Oral Steroids May Not Be As Useful As Once Thought For Back Pain

We’ve all felt it at one time or another that stiff, achy feeling that radiates down your back when you know you’ve over done it. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) nearly 60-80% of people will at one point in their lives, experience lower back pain, and for many this comes in the form of a herniated disc.

Our spinal columns are constructed of 24 bones known as vertebrae. Stacked in a straight line to protect the spine cord, each of the 24 vertebrae is separated from one another by a jelly like substance called intervertebral disc. No larger than ¼ of an inch thick, the intervertebral disc work as the shock absorbers of the spinal column, protecting it and the spinal cord from excessive and exaggerated movement. Because there is very little room for the disc to move when it begins to bulge out from the vertebral ring, due to an injury or just normal wear and tear, the disc becomes herniated. This herniation, an abnormal bulging of tissue or an organ through a natural opening in the body, is what is many times responsible for lower back pain. Particularly 5 vertebrae situated at the end of the spinal column known as the lumbar spine.

Although herniated disc can be quite painful for some many people never know they have one. Herniated disc is most common in people between the ages of 30-45. Along with a few days rest, herniated disc flare-ups are generally treated with over-the-counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen and naproxen. Those who have more severe pain that cannot be relieved with OTC drugs may need narcotic painkiller, for example Percocet or OxyContin, or a nerve based pain medication, such as Lyrica, Ultram, or Neurontin.  In addition to pain relievers oral steroids may be prescribed to reduce the swelling associated with a herniated disc.

Prednisone has long been prescribed to treat the symptoms of acute sciatica, a condition of the lower back and leg causing pain due to herniated disc. However, a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) finds that prednisone may do very little to decrease pain or disability associated with herniated disc. 267 people all diagnosed with confirmed herniated disc were randomly given a 15-day course of prednisone. Those taking prednisone showed significantly little difference in improvement than those who had not taken prednisone.

 Given the many side effects that may be associated with prednisone, many health professionals are doubting its use in the treatment of herniated disc. Patients who have been prescribed prednisone as a part of a treatment therapy for herniated disc should address any concerns they may have concerning the drug with their doctor.


American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, (2015), “Herniated Disc in the Lower Back”, http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00534, retrieved, 28, May 2015

Bakalar, N., (2015), “Oral Steroids May Be Ineffective Against Sciatica Back Pain”, New York Times, http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/05/25/oral-steroids-may-be-ineffective-against-sciatica-back-pain/?ref=health&_r=1, retrieved, 28, May, 2015



For additional information on this article, please contact:
Sandra Andrews
(717) 360-1159
Source: Sandy Andrews  

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