Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Back Pain Health Center

Font Size

Steroid Shots May Not Help Back Pain

Exercise or surgery might be better options for narrowing of the spinal canal, researchers report

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Steven Reinberg

HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, July 2, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- People who have lower back pain caused by spinal stenosis -- a condition that narrows the open space in the spinal canal -- are unlikely to get relief from steroid shots, a new study finds.

"Steroid injections are a common treatment for spinal stenosis, and we were surprised by the finding," said lead author Dr. Janna Friedly, an assistant professor of rehabilitation medicine at the University of Washington in Seattle.

"These steroid injections aren't helpful," she said. "There is no added benefit to the steroid itself, so if people are considering these injections, I would recommend that they consider an alternative."

Spinal stenosis causes pain by putting pressure on the spinal nerves. The condition is common in men and women over 60, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

Spinal stenosis is often treated with injections of local anesthetics plus steroids. More than 2 million of these injections are done each year among people on Medicare. Steroid injections are believed to relieve pain by reducing swelling and inflammation around the compressed spinal nerves, the researchers said.

Alternative treatments include exercise and surgery, Friedly said.

The new report was published July 3 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Dr. Gunnar Andersson, a professor in the department of orthopedic surgery at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago and author of an accompanying journal editorial, is not ready to give up on steroid injections.

"It is helpful for some, and in others it has no effect or very short-term effects," he said.

There are few treatments for spinal stenosis, Andersson said. "No treatment has been found to change the underlying problem or have a lasting effect on the stenosis," he said.

Andersson can't say who will benefit from steroid injections. "I tell my patients, 'this is something you can try before resorting to surgery, but whether it's going to help you or not, I can't predict.' "

The problem, Andersson said, is the overuse of steroid injections. "Many patients have been receiving many injections and for long periods of time, and that's not justified," he said.

Today on WebMD

Woman holding lower back
Or is it another form of back pain?
Hand on back
See the myths vs. the facts.
Woman doing pilates
Good and bad exercises.
acupuncture needles in woman's back
Use it to manage your pain.
Man with enhanced spinal column, rear view
pain in brain and nerves
Chronic Pain Healtcheck
Health Check
break at desk
Woman holding lower back
Weight Loss Surgery
lumbar spine
back pain