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Do Steroid Injections Raise Your Risk of Fractures?

Steroid injections are a very commonly used tool in the medical community for dealing with lower back pain, but does this seemingly safe practice have a downside?  Well, according to a recent study, steroid injections may pose an increased risk of vertebral fracture in older adults.  In other words,  a broken back.

The study, from the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, followed 3,000 patients who had steroid injections for back pain and another 3,000 who did not.  According to the findings, the  participants who had steroid injections showed an increased risk of vertebral fractures.  The risk escalated 21 per cent more for each round of shots the patient had.

The fact that steroid injections decrease bone density over time has been known for years, although few doctors consider this risk when prescribing steroid injections for back pain and neck pain.  Furthermore, women who have turned to steroid injections for spine pain were shown to lose bone density faster than men.  For that reason, women especially should avoid steroid injections at all costs.

The study also delved into the effectiveness of steroid injections as a whole.  According to the study, steroid injections are of most benefit when there is a herniated disc putting pressure on a nerve that is causing pain down the leg.  However, there is “very sparse” evidence that spinal injections are effective for pain that is centralized in the lower back.

That’s funny.  Because most of the patients I meet who have had steroid injections in the spine don’t have disc herniations or pain in the leg.  They usually just have centralized lower back pain.  Yet they have had steroid injections, even though the science shows that injections are not very beneficial in their case.   Not to mention, these injections are very costly and can lead to other side effects, like puncturing the spinal cord or getting a staph infection.  And now, to top it off, they are increasing their risk of fracture, as well.

So when a loved one is complaining about their lower back pain and mentions that their doctor is referring them to a “pain clinic” for injections, make sure they have all the facts so they can have a good discussion with their doctor.  Then ask that someone if they have ever tried chiropractic care.  Chiropractic care is a safe and effective treatment for back pain.  And it doesn’t have to hurt to work.  In our office, we utilize the Activator Methods and Atlas Orthogonal chiropractic techniques which means there is no twisting and snapping the spine.  Non-invasive methods like chiropractic care should always be attempted before more dangerous treatments like steroid injections are to be considered.


Dr. PlemonDr. Jared Plemon BS, DC is a doctor of chiropractic at Zehr Chiropractic in Norton Shores, Michigan.  He specializes in the treatment of neck pain, back pain, and extremity pain utilizing cutting edge, non-manipulative chiropractic techniques.  He blogs about nutrition, exercise, and how chiropractic care fits in with the overall health landscape.  He lives in West Michigan with his wife and two children.


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