Older workers often face unique safety and health challenges, including a higher risk of back pain as a result of repetitive stress or overwork. A new study finds that when older workers receive steroid injections, their risk of potentially devastating spinal fractures rises.
The researchers, whose work was published in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, stop short of completely blaming steroid injections, or specifically lumbar epidural steroid injections, for a higher fracture risk. However, the researchers say that the findings are conclusive enough to recommend that doctors be more cautious about recommending steroid injections for older adults with lower back or leg pain.
For years, the use of steroid injections to ease back pain has been very popular with doctors. In these cases, the injection is administered to the site of the spine that is the source of the pain. The pain is often linked to a compression of the nerve at the site. However, regular use of steroids can decrease bone density and increase the risk of fractures. This new study points to an increased risk of spinal fractures when a person receives the injections.
The researchers caution against using the results of the study to avoid spinal injections, but they do advise doctors to weigh the risks when they consider steroid injections for adults over age 65.
Older adults are not just at a higher risk of injuries but may also be ineligible for some treatments, as this study indicates. That makes it all the more necessary for employers to take safety measures to avoid musculoskeletal injuries and repetitive stress injuries among workers.
Michael Parsons is an Atlanta workers’ compensation lawyer representing injured workers in the metro Atlanta region and helping them recover the workers’ compensation benefits that they have earned.