How do oral steroids reduce neck and back pain?

Patients with acute back pain may find temporary relief from oral steroid medication. Oral steroid medication can be used to reduce the swelling and inflammation in the spine at the site of the condition, such as with arthritis of the spine. While oral steroids are commonly used to treat allergic reactions and respiratory conditions, the anti-inflammatory property within these medications can help reduce nerve root pressure caused by minor spine conditions.

If you have been diagnosed with a mild spine condition or if you experience acute pain in your neck or back, consult your doctor about starting an oral steroid regimen. Steroids for back pain can also be administered through an epidural shot in the back. Your doctor will help you decide which option of treatment is best based on your condition and medical history.

Oral steroid overview

Oral steroids reduce swelling and inflammation in the muscles and soft tissues of the body. For many people with degenerative spine conditions — the most common type of spine condition — inflammation is a common reason for chronic back pain.

Degenerative spine conditions describe the gradual breakdown of the components of the spine due to the natural aging process. The most common of these conditions is arthritis of the spine and spinal stenosis. During the conditions, the spinal canal narrows due to the swelling and shifting of spinal components, as well as other occurrences. For very mild cases of degenerative spine disease, an anti-inflammatory medication may help to reduce the pressure on a nerve root in the spine, thereby reducing pain in the back.

The most common forms of oral steroid medications include:

  • Dexamethasone
  • Methylprednisolone
  • Prednisone

Your doctor will determine the type of oral steroid to treat your spine condition based on the severity of your condition, the location of the condition and your medical history. You should consult your doctor if you experience any negative side effects while taking this medication or if you do not experience any pain relief.

Potential risks of oral steroids

As with any medication, oral steroids have some risks and potential side effects. You should research the side effects and speak with your doctor about the risks before you begin taking oral steroids.

Mild side effects of oral steroids include:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Increase of pain in your leg or back

In very rare cases, some side effects may include:

  • Infectious inflammation in the spine and nerve roots
  • Damage to the nerve roots in the spinal cord

Typically, the oral form of steroid medication has fewer risks than the epidural injection form, but you should consult your doctor about your personal risks for both forms of medication.

Treatment beyond oral steroids

If you are still experiencing back pain after a regimen of oral steroids, you should consider a different conservative treatment option, such as physical therapy or chiropractic care. Often, medication can be used in conjunction with these other therapies to increase your pain relief. Consult your doctor before starting any new treatment for back pain.

You can also research surgical treatments for chronic neck or back pain. At Laser Spine Institute, we offer minimally invasive spine surgery to effectively treat most spine conditions. Our outpatient procedures offer a safer and effective alternative to traditional open back surgery.^ We have helped more than 75,000 patients to date find relief from chronic neck or back pain. Contact us so we can help you reduce your pain and increase your quality of life.

Ask for your no-cost MRI review* today to find out if you are a potential candidate for minimally invasive spine surgery.