Submitted by David Overton
Researchers published results in Lancet (December of 2010) reviewing 41 studies involving 2,672 patients who received steroid shots for tendonitis, shoulder or knee pain, bursitis, back pain and other conditions. Steroid shots reduced pain and inflammation for 4-8 weeks, and then most studies showed the pain worsening. At six months and 12 months, pain and inflammation were decidedly worse for most conditions.
This is because the immune and circulatory system is always involved in healing pain and inflammation. Steroids temporarily reduce inflammation by suppressing the immune system. If you suppress the immune system, with steroids healing is suppressed. What alternatives are there?
- Micro-current electrical treatments are highly effective. In my experience, there is a big difference in devices and where you place them. Standard micro-current treatments often fail, but we have good success with improved devices and protocols in our office.
- B 12 trigger point injections are quite effective and rarely make things worse. We do these in our office.
- Sclerosing injections improved patellar (knee) tendinitis, but not elbow or Achilles tendonitis.
- Platelet rich plasma injections showed mixed results.
- Collagen building hyaluronic acid injections showed mixed results, with one study showing improvement for tennis elbow. Another study for rotator cuff tendinitis showed no benefit over micro-current treatments. We have numerous collagen building and hyaluronic acid supplements that can be effective. I have learned the quality of these supplements makes a big difference.
- Prolotherapy injections showed mixed benefits.
- Botox injections showed short term improvement for tennis elbow in one study.
Clearly, steroids and other injections have decidedly mixed and poor results. What else can we do?
- The standard American diet generates inflammation. A healthy diet often reduces inflammation.
- Physical therapy and McKenzie exercises (for neck or back pain) are often effective, but take time to work. So do yoga, Tai Chi, regular exercise and stretching programs.
- Anti-inflammatory medicines relieve pain and inflammation but can damage circulation, the kidneys and liver. We have alternative anti-inflammatory supplements and I have learned the quality and different formulations make a big difference.
- Homeopathic medications can be effective and have no side effects. Again, the quality and formulations can make a big difference.
- Acupuncture can help but is slow and requires needles. I recommend auriculotherapy, which is ear acupuncture with micro-current and requires no needles. This is so effective for pain; it’s being used by MDs on troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
- Since healing occurs via the immune and circulation systems, alternative treatments to support and improve immune functions and circulation often help.
If you have chronic pain, see a practitioner who utilizes alternatives, not just steroid injections and pain medicines.
David Overton, PA-C works at Natural Medicines & Family Practice providing integrated conventional and alternative treatments under the supervision of Dr. Richard Faiola, MD, ABFM. 360-357-8054.