Spinal problems can be severe and many Australians have sought spinal steroid injections to deal with a variety of problems.
The focus of today’s discussion is what you should know and consider before a spinal steroid injection.
What is it?
This type of injection involves shooting potent anti-inflammatory hormones into the body to deal with pain and injury.
This treatment is often used to deal with spinal injuries (like bursitis and disc injuries) or non-specific lower back pain. The symptoms usually have to be severe to justify this approach, as injecting steroids is not without its complications.
This type of injection is generally aimed at soft tissues but has been used for a wide variety of conditions in the past. The primary goals are reducing inflammation, managing pain and improving recovery.
Spinal steroid injections are not without complications, as mentioned. Before you opt for a spinal injection (or any invasive medical procedure), you should consider the side-effects and possible risks.
There has been increased concern about the lack of reliable evidence on spinal injections’ effectiveness. There is little scientific literature supporting their use for long-term spinal health – they appear to be more effective for acute sports injuries than spine health and have already met criticism from the United States’ FDA for side-effects.
The short-term side effects of a spinal injection can vary, but include:
- Soreness and discomfort
- Aggravated or increased inflammation
- Weakening/thinning of tendons and other connective tissues around the injection site
- Strain or rupture of tendons or ligaments
- Elevated blood pressure and increased hypertension risk
- Increased osteoporosis risk
- Arthritis in the nearby joints
On top of the side effects, there are methodological doubts about this type of injection. There’s more and more evidence suggesting that injections are associated with fractures in the spine and increased patient risk. Fractures can easily become infected and may require surgery.
Physiotherapy and Steroid Injections
In some cases, a physiotherapy referral may provide an effective second-opinion on a spinal injection. Due to the associated risks, it shouldn’t be undertaken lightly – many patients opt for non-invasive treatments where possible.
A second opinion from a doctor or physiotherapist may offer a different therapeutic approach, though this is going to depend on your individual case.
Despite side-effects and other concerns, there are occasional cases where steroid injections may be the best treatment option. In these cases, physiotherapy is a great complimentary (or adjunct) option that can reduce risk factors and help with recovery.
Addressing underlying issues and reducing the day-to-day severity of your condition may be possible with physiotherapy. As always though, this depends on the individual case and the causes.
If you’re booked in for an injection, it’s not a sign that you should stop dealing with your condition. Physiotherapy provides pain management, rehabilitation and damage control options during this period.
Following your injection, you may be at-risk for a number of joint problems and spinal complications. During this period, physiotherapy-assisted recovery can be a real benefit.
Symptoms and Concerns
With the increased risk of connective tissue injury and discomfort in the spine, a program of gentle exercise and manual therapy has been shown to have positive outcomes and may be a better choice. Especially given the lack of evidence on spinal injection effectiveness.
If you have any concerns about your recovery post-injection, your symptoms are persistent or worsening, physiotherapy may help.
This depends on your individual case and we always recommend consulting with your physician. The addition of non-invasive, safe physical therapy may provide benefits to recovery and even improve outcomes when combined with traditional treatment methods.
Consider the merits of physiotherapy before, after, and in the place of spinal injections. You should also keep non-invasive physiotherapy in mind if you find that your recovery is slow or complicated.
It’s important to find the care pathway that’s right for you! So for more information, contact us.
*Please note, content within this article is for educational purposes only and treatment and advice mentioned may not be suited for everyone. Please consult a team member at the Brisbane Spine Clinic or your General Practitioner for specific advice.