UMEM Educational Pearls

Category: Orthopedics

Title: Steroids and Sciatica

Keywords: Steroids, Sciatica (PubMed Search)

Posted: 6/20/2015 by Michael Bond, MD
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Steroid Use in the treatment of Acute Sciatica

Have you used oral steroids in the treatment of your patient with acute sciatica thought to be secondary to a herniated disk.

Well a recent randomizaed, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial from 2008 to 2013 in a large integrated health care system in Northern California enrolled 269 patients to look at whether steroids improved pain or function. The intervention arm (twice as large as placebo arm) received a tapering 15-day course of oral prednisone (5 days each of 60 mg, 40 mg, and 20 mg; total cumulative dose = 600 mg; n = 181).

In the end there were no differences in surgery rates at 52-week follow-up, and the steroid arm had a modest improvement in function but no improvement in pain. There were also more adverse events at 3-week follow-up in the prednisone group than in the placebo group.

Conclusion: Giving steroids for acute sciatica does not appear to improve the patients pain, only has a modest improvement in function, and was associated with more adverse events. Put another way there was minimal benefit and more harm.

You can check out the full article at


Goldberg H, Firtch W, Tyburski M, Pressman A, Ackerson L, Hamilton L, Smith W, Carver R, Maratukulam A, Won LA, Carragee E, Avins AL. Oral steroids for acute radiculopathy due to a herniated lumbar disk: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA. 2015 May 19;313(19):1915-23. doi: 10.1001/jama.2015.4468.