Many patients with sciatica endure substantial pain and disability. For those who do not recover quickly, invasive procedures such as epidural steroid injections (ESIs) and surgery are commonly performed. Oral administration of steroid medication may provide similar anti-inflammatory activity, can be delivered quickly by primary care providers, carries less risk, and would be much less expensive than an ESI. Oral steroids are used by many community physicians and have been included in some clinical guidelines; however, no appropriately powered clinical trials of oral steroids for radiculopathy have been conducted to date, according to background information in the article.
In some cases, your doctor may give you an injection of a corticosteroid to help relieve your pain and reduce inflammation. Corticosteroids mimic the effects of the hormones cortisone and hydrocortisone, which are made by the outer layer (cortex) of your adrenal glands. When prescribed in doses that exceed your natural levels, corticosteroids suppress inflammation, which in turn relieves pressure and pain. They are most effective when used in conjunction with a rehabilitation program. In addition, corticosteroids can cause serious side effects, so the number of injections you can receive is limited—usually no more than three in one year.