Steroid injections are commonly used to treat musculoskeletal inflammation and relieve pain. Unfortunately, however, these high-dose steroids are associated with a number of complications and side effects. A few of these follow:
- Steroid injections are toxic to mesenchymal stem cells.
- Steroid injections increase the risk of a serious bone disease called osteonecrosis.
- Steroid injections hurt tendon cells and can make tendinitis symptoms worse.
- Repeated steroid injects break down cartilage.
- Steroid epidurals increase the risk of spinal fractures in older women.
Despite these significant side effects, epidural steroid injections continue to be performed on patients with low-back pain that has been refractory to conservative care.
What Are Platelets?
Platelets live in your blood. They are small cells that are loaded with growth factors and initiate clotting. While there are many growth factors in platelets, one of the most important is VEGF, which increases the blood flow to a given area by increasing the number of new blood vessels.
PRP vs. Steroid Injections: What the Data Shows
Is there any data comparing steroid injections to PRP injections?
Yes. As part of our commitment to the field of regenerative medicine, we evaluated the outcomes between epidural steroid and PRP injections for low-back pain. So how did traditional steroids stack up compared to PRP?
Using our registry data, we looked at two groups of patients: those who received epidural PRP (platelet lysate) injections (n=147) and those who underwent traditional epidural steroid injections (n=85). The functional rating index (FRI) measures several indices, including pain and the ability to walk, sit, and stand. At three and six months, the epidural steroid patients had less improvement in function as compared to those who received the Regenexx PRP injection. The infographic below summarizes these results (click on the infographic to see it larger):
The next time your doctor offers a steroid injection for low-back pain, recognize that epidural PRP injections are more effective and are not associated with the significant side effects of steroids. At the Centeno-Schultz Clinic, we have been treating lumbar disc bulges and herniated discs successfully with our third-generation platelet rich plasma.