More evidence mounts that steroid epidural side effects are significant and consequently, this has been a horrible several months for epidural steroid injections. There have been several studies showing significant bone loss due to the high dose steroids, others showing a stark increase in bone osteonecrosis with oral steroids, used as well as the NECC compounding tragedy. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, a new study was just published that shows the extent of the whole body side effects that can be caused by steroid epidurals. The study demonstrated that the epidural steroids suppressed the brain loop that allows you to normally respond to stress and inflammation (hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis) for as much as three weeks after a single shot! This is really concerning as these injections are commonly used every week for three weeks. Suppression of this brain function negatively impacts the body’s energy reserves, ability to handle stress, as well as it’s ability to regulate the hormonal and nervous systems. It can also have profound impacts on modulating immune function. Particularly with chronic (long term) stress, suppression of these interconnected functions can lead to compromised health and disease, and greater susceptibility to illness. The upshot? More reasons to avoid steroid epidural injections!
Epidural steroid side effects have been in the news because of serious issues with some compounded steroid medications. In addition, the drug maker of the most commonly used high dose steroid in epidurals has stated that their drug shouldn’t be used this way. Just how safe are epidural steroids shots when steroids are injected into the space around the spinal cord? A study presented at the recent meeting of the North American Spine Society, raised new concerns about the steroids that are used to treat millions of back pain sufferers. This is because this study showed that epidurals steroid shots increase spinal fracture risk.
The researchers looked at data on 6,000 patients treated for back pain. They treated half of the patients with at least one epidural steroid shot and the other half never received this treatment. According to their analysis, spinal fracture risk increased by 29% with each steroid shot. Steroid treatments, such as those taken orally or by IV, have long been linked to bone loss or even more serious diseases like osteonecrosis. However, epidural steroid shots were thought to have little impact on bones because they were delivered directly to the problem area and it was thought they would have less effect on the rest of the body. This study would argue that the high doses of steroids commonly used do get into the body and produce negative effects. The upshot? If you need an injection to calm down an irritated spinal nerve, consider using the growth factors from your own blood platelets rather than high dose steroids.