Low back pain is prevalent about 30% of the population currently has lower back pain and 80% will suffer some form of debilitating lower back pain once in their life!  In addition, back pain is the #1 cause of disability and can significantly affect a person’s quality of life. For those seeking relief from chronic or severe low back pain, cortisone injections are a treatment when the pain is severe enough.  Of course, with every type of care or treatment, there are advantages and drawbacks.  It’s important to make sure you read this article all the way through and consult your doctor so you can fully understand if an injection is the right method for you. 

Here are some of the potential benefits you can see from a cortisone injection. 

Quick-Acting Pain Relief –  In some cases, cortisone injections can offer quick pain relief when suffering from lower back pain.  In some cases, you may see some relief of pain in hours or even days.

Reduced Inflammation – Cortisone injections work by helping to fight and decrease inflammation within the region.  Driving down inflammation is key in reducing pain levels and many of those people who are dealing with a herniated disc, bulging disc, or sciatica, often are those seeking care for this type of injury.  Reducing inflammation is important in keeping patients more comfortable helping to jump-start the healing process.

Minimally Invasive –  Cortisone injections are minimally invasive procedures when compared to surgery and many other medical procedures.  They usually require only a local anesthetic, and the injection itself is relatively quick, making it a less daunting option compared to surgical interventions.

Avoiding Systemic Side Effects: Unlike oral corticosteroids taken over a more extended period, cortisone injections have a localized effect. This means that the risk of systemic side effects, such as weight gain, mood changes, and high blood pressure, is significantly reduced.  Just because this is more unlikely to happen, does not mean it won’t.  I can tell you firsthand, that I had a patient who had an injection that had immediate systemic effects and needed bilateral cataract surgery. 

The Negatives or Possible Drawbacks Of Injections

  • Temporary Relief – Most of the time, cortisone injections only provide temporary pain relief.  In some cases, the pain can return in days, weeks, or months.  Pain relief is essential but if you never change your movement patterns, and continue the same things that got you there, the injections may never work. 
  • Potential for Tissue Damage – Repeated cortisone injections, particularly in the same area, can weaken nearby tissues, including tendons, ligaments, and bone. Over time, this can increase the risk of injuries or complications in the treated region.  This is why you are often limited to a few injections per year.
  • Infection Risk – Any injection or procedure has a risk, there is a minimal risk of infection. It is crucial to ensure that the injection is administered under sterile conditions to minimize this potential complication.
  • The Injection Does Not Always Work Since this is a temporary procedure, you should know that it may not work as nothing is 100% guaranteed. You may need multiple rounds or they may not even be effective at all. 
  • Short-Term Solution – Cortisone injections should be viewed as a short-term solution to manage low back pain. They are not a cure, and long-term reliance on them is not the answer.  

Conclusion & Our Experience

Having worked with many patients who have received a cortisone injection, I can tell you there are short-term benefits at best.  We have not seen many (if any) cortisone injections that “magically fixed” a back issue. This type of procedure should be used to help reduce acute inflammation and pain but not as a long-term strategy to overcome your lower back pain.  

To finally conquer your lower back pain you will need to find the root cause, learn how your body responds to specific exercises/positions, change your movement patterns, and of course, rehabilitate and strengthen the area. 

Since working with thousands of patients with lower back pain, sciatica, and disc injuries, we can tell you for sure that when you apply the correct methods and help people move better, they often get better.  Using rehab as the primary therapy should always be the preferred model but using modern medicine to help, can be a unique stepping stone.  

Cortisone injections are often overprescribed and since they are more invasive than rehabilitation, you should do as much of the natural process first.  This should not be a go-to procedure.

If you decide on having the injection, here is what you should consider ask your doctor.

  • Are you sure that this is the root cause of your pain & inflammation, or is it the symptoms?
      • Sometimes the injection site is not the root cause of your pain.
  • What are some or any alternatives I should consider as a first-line treatment?
      • Consider some other options before you do the injection.
  • If this does not work, & even if it does, what is the next plan?
    • It is good to have a plan to see what & who you should see next so you can prevent this from getting worse.

Keep Moving!

Dr. Josh Jagoda

PS If you want to fix your back pain, you should sign up for our FREE 1-1 Discovery Visit! We will see you for FREE on your first visit so that you can get all your questions answered. Apply Today!