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Minimally Invasive Pain Institute

Pharmacologic Pain Management

Corticosteroids

Corticosteroids are a group of potent anti-inflammatory drugs which can be used in pharmacologic pain management treatment. Short-term acute therapy of corticosteroid medications often provides symptomatic relief of lower back pain, bursitis, cancer pain, and other painful conditions. It is also commonly used for asthma, dermatitis, allergic reactions, lupus, and inflammatory bowel disease. Long-term chronic treatment is typically avoided due to the risk of systemic side effects and complications. These may include muscle weakness, cataracts, and osteoporosis. Various types of corticosteroid medications may be used or prescribed by pain management physicians.

  • Prednisone, Hydrocortisone, Prednisolone
  • Betamethasone, Dexamethasone
  • Triamcinolone
  • Clobetasone

In your body, cortisol is a naturally produced hormone that works in many ways. It controls salt and water balance, regulates metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, and also suppress inflammation, which in many conditions can cause of swelling and pain. Corticosteroids are synthetic versions of cortisol and function similarly by blocking the production of substances in the immune system (such as prostaglandins) that trigger allergic and painful inflammatory reactions.

Typically, acute treatment with corticosteroids is well tolerated, but in some cases side effects may occur which include hyperglycemia, stomach ulcers, fluid retention, hip avascular necrosis, and insomnia. However, more serious side effects, such as leg swelling, high blood pressure, and decreased immune response, may occur with chronic administration or when this medication is taken over a long period of time. Before considering corticosteroid therapy as treatment for pain relief and control, potential risks and benefits should be discussed with our pain management physicians. As with many other pharmacologic pain management treatments, our physicians will prescribe the proper dosages necessary for the optimal outcome while minimizing the potential side effects.