Steroid injections, such as epidural injections in the back and neck or joint injections, are performed primarily to decrease inflammation. When inflammation is decreased, the expectation is that pain is also reduced. These procedures are usually more effective than taking pills because the medication is deposited directly at the problem area and can be provided at a much lower dose.
Steroid injections have an effect on the body for approximately 3 weeks. Relief at times occurs for a shorter or longer period of time and this effect is largely determined by the underlying physical condition. In the end, the antiinflammatory effect wears off and it is important to note that steroids do not correct the problem that causes pain.
The benefits that we see with injections is that it supports and promotes conservative approaches, such as rehab and exercise to help improve biomechanics. When pain is less, therapy can be more effective. It is the hope that by the time that the steroid wears off, progress has been made and the patient is stronger or healing has taken place.
There are risks with frequent steroid exposure and there are limits on how much it can help, but when used in a multidisciplinary context, this is a very effective therapy that helps numerous patients.