The sciatica sufferer usually starts with painkillers and physiotherapy and eventually gets to the last-chance option before surgery – an epidural injection of corticosteroids.
What’s not news for those who’ve already had the shots is that they’re useless, as researchers have finally discovered.
In a recent study, 228 patients, who had suffered from sciatica for up to 18 months, were given either a lumbar epidural of corticosteroids or saline. After six weeks, there was no difference between the two groups and, after a year, a third of patients in both groups reported a 75-per-cent improvement in their condition.
So, a powerful drug was no better than a placebo.
But here’s another way of looking at it: a placebo is just as effective as a powerful drug, so if you think something will make you better, it probably will (Rheumatology, 2005; 44: 1399-406).