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No matter who you are, you’ll most likely experience lower back pain at some point in your adult life. Most of the time, the pain goes away within a few weeks, but what happens if it lingers and disrupts your daily routine? When should you see a spine specialist to receive lower back pain treatment in the form of steroid injections?

Lower Back Injections: The Basics

Spinal injections are increasingly popular. By reducing inflammation, the injected medications offer relief from the constant pain that accompanies many people through the course of a day. 1

The procedure is relatively simple and non-invasive. It involves two separate stages. The first stage involves epidural steroid injections (ESI). A doctor injects cortisone and epidurals directly into the spine near the location of the irritated nerve.

The second stage involves regenerative stem cell and platelet injections, a process which helps the tissue to repair itself using the body’s own plasma platelets. In other words, this part of the treatment is designed to help the body heal itself.

Although relatively conservative when compared to spine surgery, spine injections nevertheless have their upsides and downsides. Like many treatments, it comes with rare but real side effects—anything from weight gain to hypertension. 2 Injections are not right for everyone, and they are neither the first nor the last course of action recommended by spine doctors.

Conservative Back Pain Treatment: The First Line of Defense

In most cases, physical therapy is the first recourse. Combined with regular exercise, it is the most conservative strategy for relieving pain and addressing underlying issues. That being said, someone suffering from crippling pain may first need to receive injections before taking part in a physical therapy session.

In general, the first line of defense against back pain should include some combination of the following:

  • Physical therapy
  • Exercise
  • Posture modification
  • Stretching
  • Ergonomics
  • Chiropractic care
  • Acupuncture
  • Massage
Steroid Injections: The Next Level of Lower Back Pain Treatment

If conservative treatments fall short, steroid injections may be next on the list of remedies, particularly since they are preferable to more invasive treatments. Before turning to the spine surgeon, it’s usually worthwhile to speak with a doctor about ESI.

On the other hand, EMI may not be enough. Injections can alleviate pain in the short term, but they do not necessarily resolve the underlying problem. For that, surgery may be required. In the end, the only way to determine whether injections are appropriate is to speak with a qualified spine specialist.

If you want to learn more about cutting-edge treatments for back pain, or if you want to make an appointment with a doctor to discuss whether ESI is right for you, contact the spine specialists at Weill Cornell Medicine: Comprehensive Spine.


  1. Consumer Reports. “Epidural steroid injections for back pain: Worth a shot, or should you skip it?” <>