If your doctor has recommended cortisone shots, it’s likely for the purpose of reducing inflammation and relieving you of pain. A physician typically injects cortisone into a joint, such as the knee, shoulder, or hip. Here’s what you can expect from this procedure, as well as side effects and risks.

Cortisone shots: An overview 

Cortisone injections are a common pain-relieving procedure. They can help treat inflammation and damage resulting from an injury or a disease. You may hear them referred to as:

  • Cortisone shots
  • Corticosteroid injections
  • Cortisone injections

Your doctor may prescribe cortisone injections if you suffer from any of the following conditions:

These injections can easily be administered in a doctor’s office and do not take long. Usually, your doctor will inject cortisone into the soft tissues or a joint area, such as in the:

  • Back
  • Knee
  • Hip
  • Elbow
  • Ankle
  • Shoulder
  • Wrist

The injections can help. Mayo Clinic notes that:

“Results of cortisone shots typically depend on the reason for the treatment. Cortisone shots commonly cause a temporary flare in pain and inflammation for up to 48 hours after the injection. After that, your pain and inflammation of the affected joint should decrease, and can last up to several months.”

How do cortisone shots work? 

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.

Your doctor will first prep the area for the injection with local anesthetic. A cortisone injection itself does not necessarily cause pain, but will feel like pressure in your 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.

You can watch the setup for a knee joint injection in the following video.

What are side effects of cortisone shots? 

Following the shot, a person may experience temporary potential side effects. Side effects of cortisone injections may include:

  • Redness
  • Warmth of the skin in the injection area
  • Bleeding, near the injection site
  • Pain

If the pain becomes bothersome, you can reduce it with an ice pack. It typically will only last for a few hours.

It will be necessary to keep the area clean and protected and watch for any signs of infection. If pain or redness lingers, or is accompanied by a fever, contact your doctor immediately.

Additional risks of cortisone shots are rare, but they do include:

  • Osteonecrosis (death of bone)
  • Osteoporosis (weakening of bone)
  • Nerve damage
  • Skin discoloration at injection site
  • Tendon rupture