Epidural steroid injections have been a viable treatment for patients with back pain since the 1950s. A recent study suggests that such injections may also be an effective way to reduce medical costs for some patients with lower back pain by as much as 20 percent.
Lower Costs for Certain Conditions
Researchers say that steroid injections for back pain may curb costs for some patients by minimizing expenses associated with visits to doctors and spine specialists as well as costs related to diagnostic testing. The decreased medical expenses were specific to patients undergoing treatment for:
- Lumbago: A general term for low back pain without a specific source.
- Radiculitis: Pain that radiates to areas beyond the true source of the pain.
- Sciatica: Pain linked to pressure on the sciatic nerve running from the lower back to legs.
Minimizing Overspending on Unsuccessful Treatments
The purpose of the study on how much is spent on different back pain treatments was to determine if patients were really getting the most value for their healthcare expenditures. The findings may help patients reduce costs from treatments that prove to be unsuccessful. Yet there is a justification for a hit or miss approach to treating some forms of back pain, including discomfort that can’t be linked to a clear source such as non-specific LBP.
Savings with Injections
The study tracked patients who opted for epidural steroid injections certain back-related conditions and those who did not have injections. In general, costs tend to increase within the first three months following initial treatment for back pain. Those who received injections during that initial treatment period had fewer out-of-pocket expenses since they were able to achieve significant relief from injections rather than more expensive treatments involving:
- Costly or experimental drugs
- Prolonged physical therapy
- Ongoing chiropractic care
Epidural steroid injections alone are sometimes all that’s necessary to provide relief for patients. Other patients with recurring back pain tend to benefit more when ESIs are combined with additional treatments. Relief from injections is temporary, with results lasting anywhere from a week to several months. ESIs do sometimes allow patients to respond better to early physical therapy efforts.
Learn more about treatment options for back pain, from conservative methods to spine surgery, by reaching out to leading Los Angeles spine surgery center, The Spine Institute. Call (310) 828-7757 and schedule an in-person consultation today.