Dee Woods: Injections into spine may not ease pain

By Dee Woods

Alternative and integrative medicine exists in every specialty, and integrative/alternative orthopedic treatment is no different.

Years ago, I wrote about Dr. Ross Hauser's alternative/integrative practice in Oak Park. Just last week, he released an interesting article that I found most enlightening.

Hauser spoke of recent studies showing a common procedure used for spinal stenosis and low back pain is not nearly as effective as once thought. That procedure is known as an epidural steroid injection (ESI).

The results of a study showed even fewer positive results for persons more than 60 years old. The studies, surprisingly, indicate ESI injections are of little help and actually can lead to complicated surgeries.

The research was published in the Dec. 12, 2012 issue of Spine magazine. The researchers explained the study was conducted to show that persons treated with ESI would have improved clinical outcomes and fewer surgeries than those not treated with epidural steroid injections, so the results surprised the researchers.

Hauser notes the study indicated patients receiving ESIs showed temporary improvement or no improvement at all, and had a greater need for surgery.

The basis of epidural steroid injections is to reduce inflammation and swelling in the epidural space, according to Hauser. He believes the reason the injections may not work as effectively as they theoretically should is that in some cases an accurate diagnosis may not have been made, and there may be additional other causes of severe pain, especially in cases where there is continuing significant pain after surgical intervention.

Hauser addressed another study that found that postmenopausal women are at risk for bone mineral density (BMD) loss when treated with ESIs. Researchers studied 28 postmenopausal women who were treated for radiculopathy with ESIs to the L4 and L5 vertebraein the low back. They recorded significant decline in hip bone mineral density at six months when compared to the original baseline measurement. They also noted a chance of abnormal uterine bleeding among postmenopausal women.

I admire Hauser because he believes the whole person must be treated and not just a body part. He is a strong advocate of proper nutrition.

Hauser writes, "Temporary pain relief is not what pain patients should be seeking. Permanent healing and pain relief should be the goal. Maybe pain patients don't believe there is a cure for their pain, so they seek as many pain relief options as possible. The problem is that many pain relief treatments include steroids and anti-inflammatory agents that can make the injury even worse. As the injury gets worse, a person is forced to look for stronger and more complex pain relief. It's a vicious cycle."

Over the last few years, I've spoken with several people who have suffered unremitting pain and sought all available conventional treatments. They explained that Hauser was able to relieve their conditions along with their symptoms.

If all else has failed, it might be time to take a look at the practice of Hauser and other integrative physicians. You can learn more at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Dee Woods is available to give presentations about alternative health treatments and healthy living. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .