IV steroids for sciatica: no long-term relief
Intravenous (IV) steroids slightly reduce pain in patients with severe sciatica due to a herniated intravertebral disk, but the improvement does not last, according to a new study in the journal Spine. A relatively common form of low back and leg pain, sciatica is marked by pain along the large sciatic nerve that runs from the lower back down the back of each leg. It is typically treated with time, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), short-term use of a narcotic, lumbar injections, and physical therapy. In the new study of 65 people who had sciatica for less than six weeks, researchers found that leg pain decreased significantly among people receiving the IV steroid injection, compared with the placebo group. However, total reduction in pain was small. On a 100-point scale, those patients did about six points better than the placebo group, and the improvement lasted only a couple of days. By the third day after treatment, pain scores showed little or no difference between groups. And in both groups, pain scores decreased gradually in the 10 days after treatment. None of the other outcomes studied were significantly different between groups, including disability or signs of nerve root irritation.
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