Even today there are people who view cortisone injections for back pain to be controversial. Some patients experience what is referred to as a “cortisone flare” after getting an injection. This flare is often painful – sometimes even more so than the back pain that is being treated. However, that flare is temporary. The injection is still effective in providing pain relief.
Cortisone injections can also weaken tendons, which is another point of controversy surrounding the treatment. For this reason, injections can never be made directly into the tendons to avoid the risk of patients developing tendinosis or tendinopathy.
Remember: these are not anabolic steroids like what weight lifters or athletes use to bulk up. Steroids are used differently in medical practice.
It’s a short-term fix
While steroid shots may give you temporary relief from back pain, remember that:
- They aren’t a cure-all for your back condition
- If you’re struggling with pain that radiates down your leg, a cortisone shot could give you the relief you need to start physical therapy
- For others, your chronic back condition may improve while you’re pain-free from the cortisone
- Cortisone is only treating your symptoms, not the cause
“You would do less invasive, less aggressive things first,” says Dr. Robert Shmerling, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
Effective relief for back pain
Today’s medical standards rely on cortisone injections to help people who live with chronic back pain. Cortisone injections for back pain may provide you with pain relief long enough so that your back injury can heal. This can allow you to move forward with other treatments such as an exercise program or physical therapy to regain movement and strength.
The verdict on cortisone shots
Trying a cortisone injection to temporarily alleviate your back pain is your personal decision. Living with chronic pain is miserable. If you need relief, consider this a safe solution to try. Talk to your trusted medical professional about your interest in this treatment.
The effects of a cortisone shot can make your journey to improved spine health more comfortable for a while. Remember though that the real healing will begin when you can make physical changes that include muscle balance and proper alignment of your spine.
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This post has been updated as of December 2018 with new information and resources.