The Dangers of Corticosteroid Injections

corticosteroid-injectionsA common medical treatment for back pain, neck pain, and limb pain is to inject the affected area with an epidural of corticosteroid.  This is an anti-inflammatory medication directed through a syringe directly into the site of pain.  This treatment method is widely used and administered within the sports medicine community.

Last week, a warning was issued by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) about the dangers of corticosteroids.  To my surprise, this drug is NOT approved by the FDA, and according to the agency, there is limited evidence backing their safety or effectiveness.

Here is the link to the published article in JAMA, which states:

Patients receiving epidural injections of corticosteroids for neck, back, or limb pain are at risk of rare but serious adverse events, including blindness, stroke, paralysis, and death, according to a US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warning.

Epidural injections of corticosteroids are a common treatment offered to patients who experience back pain, neck pain, or pain that radiates to the arms and legs. However, such injections are not FDA approved, and there is limited evidence backing their safety or effectiveness, according to the agency. A review of data from the FDA Adverse Event Reporting System found cases of death, spinal cord infarction, paraplegia, quadriplegia, cortical blindness, stroke, seizures, nerve injury, and brain swelling in patients who had received epidural steroid injections. These events occurred within minutes to 2 days after injection. According to the FDA, many of the patients did not recover from these injuries.

At Inspire Fitness, we use corrective exercise in personal training and exercise physiology sessions to reduce pain and improve the biomechanics and function of your body.  The treatment of injury with corrective exercise and exercise rehabilitation is well-established as a safe and long-term solution to reducing pain and enhancing wellbeing. Our belief is that corticosteroid anti-inflammatory injections only mask the symptoms of pain without addressing the mechanisms and causes of the pain.