Cortisone Steroid Injections for Sciatica

Epidural for nerve pain in the lower back, buttocks, and thigh

If you have sciatica, or nerve pain that causes discomfort in your lower back, buttocks, and thigh, you may have tried many different treatments to find relief. For some individuals, epidural steroid injections may be used to treat this condition.

This medication is a shot given in the lower back by the spinal cord. This helps decrease pain and swelling around the nerve root, which is a bundle of fibers that comes off of the spinal cord and extends to other areas in the body.

Your healthcare provider may also prescribe other medications, physical therapy exercises, or a non-surgical therapy like spinal decompression to attempt to treat your problem. In some cases, surgery may also be recommended.

Injectable medicine and syringe.
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This article discusses the effectiveness of steroid shots for sciatica, which is also called lumbar radiculopathy. It also explains other remedies and treatment options for this condition.

How Effective Are Steroid Shots for Sciatica?

Research on steroid shots for sciatica is limited.

One study looked at the effect of three different injections in the spine. About 80 individuals with sciatica either received steroid injections, an arthritis medication, or salt water injections (a placebo, or sham treatment). Each person received two injections spaced two weeks apart.

Results gathered one month after the last injection found that there was more improvement in symptoms with the epidural steroids than the other treatments. However, the improvement was not significant when compared to the arthritis medication or salt water injection.

Another study noted that:

  • Epidural steroid shots given to individuals with acute sciatica, or those with a recent onset of symptoms, helped reduce inflammation associated with the early stages of this condition.
  • Individuals given these injections during the early stages of sciatica had better pain relief and improved functioning when compared to individuals just given pain medication.

For some individuals, steroid injections can help with the pain associated with sciatica. Keep in mind that there may be a specific window of time when this treatment works best.

What Else Can I Do to Relieve Sciatica Pain?

If you are looking for other options for sciatica relief, either as an addition to steroid shots or an alternative to them, you have options.

Research indicates that exercise is one of the best and safest treatments for lumbar radiculopathy. A visit to your physical therapist can help you find the right exercises for your needs.

Many people with back pain benefit from physical therapy programs like the McKenzie Method, which specifically focuses on assessing and managing lower back pain.

While some individuals get relief from strengthening their core and hip muscles, others may require a combination of stretching and strengthening to help treat their back pain.

Exercises to try for back pain may include:

  • The prone press up, which involves positioning yourself like you're about to do a push-up and pressing your shoulders up while your hips and low back relax
  • The press up with hips off center, which involves doing a press up exercise with your hips off to the side
  • The flexion rotation stretch, which involves lying on your side with your lower leg straight and top leg bent
  • The lumbar side glide, a standing exercise you do close to a wall
  • The pelvic tilt, which is done while lying on the floor with your knees bent and feet on the floor

Be sure to check in with your healthcare provider before starting any treatment for your back pain or sciatica. Work with your healthcare provider and your physical therapist to find the right combination of treatment methods that work best for your needs.

Proper treatment may help improve your spinal motion and decrease or eliminate your pain.

Summary

Epidural steroid shots for sciatica may help some individuals experience symptom relief. This may be especially true for those with acute sciatica. However, research is limited.

Other treatments for sciatica include physical therapy and exercise. Be sure to check in with your healthcare provider and physical therapist before beginning a treatment program.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Where is a cortisone shot given for sciatica?

    For sciatica, cortisone shots may be given in the epidural space, which is by your spinal cord in your lower back.

  • How long does it take for steroids to help with sciatica?

    It can take 24 to 48 hours before you feel the benefits of the steroid injection for sciatica.

  • How long does a cortisone shot last for sciatica?

    Shot benefits for sciatica tend to last for months.

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5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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