Author Interviews, JAMA, Kaiser Permanente, Pain Research / 03.06.2015

Harley Goldberg, DO Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Kaiser Interview with: Harley Goldberg, DO Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Kaiser Permanente Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Goldberg: This is the first large-scale randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial of oral steroids for acute radiculopathy, commonly called sciatica, associated with a herniated lumbar disk. Lumbar radiculopathy (or pain down the leg in a lumbar nerve root distribution) is a common source of pain and disability for many adults. It is thought that inflammation from a disk herniation is responsible for many of the symptoms, so giving a powerful anti-inflammatory, such as steroid medication, might help relieve sciatica symptoms quickly. Prior research has shown that lumbar diskectomy does not affect the one year outcome for most patients, and epidural steroid injections do not have strong support by clinical trials. If the use of epidural steroids injections is based on application of steroid anti-inflammatory to the affected nerve root(s), perhaps an oral steroid can have affect. Although oral steroids are used by many physicians and have been included in some clinical guidelines, no large-scale clinical trials of oral steroids for sciatica have been conducted before. Our study found that among patients with acute radiculopathy associated with a herniated lumbar disk, a short course of oral steroids resulted in only modest improvement in function and no significant improvement in pain. (more…)