Cortisone Injections

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Cortisone Injections

What to Expect

If your doctor has recommended cortisone injections, it’s likely for the purpose of reducing inflammation and relieving you of pain, usually in a joint.

Cortisone injections are common and can be used to treat damage resulting from an injury or a disease. Examples of conditions that can potentially be treated with cortisone injections include:

  • bursitis
  • carpal tunnel syndrome
  • gout
  • lupus
  • osteoarthritis
  • plantar fasciitis
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • rotator cuff injury
  • tendinitis

The shots can easily be administered in a doctor’s office and do not take long. Usually the cortisone is injected into a joint area, such as in the back, knee, hip, elbow, ankle, shoulder or wrist.

Cortisone, which is typically administered as a corticosteroid (a steroid hormone), works by suppressing the body’s immune system, which minimizes the swelling and inflammation associated with the injury or disease and relieves pain.

The injection itself does not necessarily cause pain, but will feel like pressure is being applied to the joint. The corticosteroid is then released into the injection site, usually along with an anesthetic. While the corticosteroid works gradually to reduce inflammation and pain over time, the anesthetic works much quicker to provide immediate pain relief.

Following the shot, a person may experience temporary redness and warmth of the skin in that area. In some cases, there may be temporary pain; if bothersome, it can usually be treated with an ice pack. It will be necessary to keep the area clean and protected and watch for any signs of infection.

Cortisone injections are rarely given repeatedly over a long period of time due to risks and potential complications. First, there is some evidence that cortisone may contribute to the destruction of cartilage in a joint. So while the cortisone injections can do much in the way of relieving pain for a patient, he or she may be limited to only two, three or four, depending on the severity of the condition.

Second, because cortisone limits the immune system, there is the potential for infection and deterioration of tissue around the injection site. Physicians routinely advise patients to suspend use of any blood-thinning medications prior to administration of the injections to prevent excessive bleeding and bruising at the injection site.

Additional risks of cortisone injections include:

  • osteonecrosis (death of bone)
  • osteoporosis (weakening of bone)
  • nerve damage
  • skin discoloration at injection site
  • tendon rupture

Image via Daniel Paquet on Flickr


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By | 2016-11-17T11:07:34+00:00 July 24th, 2013|Tags: , , |12 Comments

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  1. Alan Trowbridge February 21, 2017 at 4:32 pm - Reply

    MY doctor, a pain management doctor, is talking about giving me a cortisone shot in my back, to help with bulging disc, arthritis, and something else back there. I asked him if the shot would hurt, and he said no, they put us under anesthesia or something, but I saw no mention of that procedure in any of your articles, of which I read them all

    • Pain Doctor
      Pain Doctor February 27, 2017 at 2:34 pm - Reply

      Hi Alan — We’re not sure exactly what information you’re looking for, but also can’t give specific advice online. If your doctor is unable to provide more literature on the procedure, we recommend talking to one of the pain doctors in our network: Hope that helps, thanks!

  2. David Brosett March 21, 2017 at 7:24 pm - Reply

    I turned down a cortisone shot in my neck for a bulging disk. I’m not in very much pain anymore. I’m maybe at a 1 on the pain scale and even then it doesn’t hurt all the time. I didn’t think the shot was necessary. Should I have gotten the shot?

    • Pain Doctor
      Pain Doctor March 25, 2017 at 4:35 am - Reply

      Hi David — That’s a question for a doctor as we unfortunately can’t offer specific medical advice online. However, if you’re at a 1, that means you must be doing something right!

  3. betty wilhelm April 4, 2017 at 3:35 am - Reply

    I am in lot of back pain. Pain management give me three testing shots each side of lower back. That did not work.
    A few weeks later they gave me two shots towards the middle of the back. That did not work. A few weeks later I
    had one between the spine and that did not work. That is all they can do. Last week I was sent to a Dr and he
    though it was burcitis and gave me a shot in my hip and that did not work. I do not want anymore shots.What next?

  4. roy June 1, 2017 at 7:33 pm - Reply

    How can yu help. My mother has knee anthritis, what options do I have to manage he r pain

  5. Annie June 13, 2017 at 12:39 pm - Reply

    How can I find a doctor to do Coolife knee injection in Lancaster, Pa.

  6. Renee Nannery August 31, 2017 at 12:59 pm - Reply

    I had a cortisone injection this morning on the outside of my right knee (about 5 hours ago). Now I am having severe pain in my whole knee. Now I have ice on it but wondering what pain pill if any can I take? It hurts to walk on it. Thanks for all your help

    • Pain Doctor
      Pain Doctor September 4, 2017 at 4:24 pm - Reply

      Hi Renee — Unfortunately we can’t answer specific medical questions online. We do recommend reaching out to your doctor about any side effects or questions you have.

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