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

Everyday Health discusses some more of the pros and cons of corticosteroid injections here.

How many times can you get a cortisone shot? 

The number of cortisone shots given depends on the patient. However, 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.

Should I get cortisone shots? 

Before attempting any procedure, it’s important to talk to your doctor about all of the potential benefits, and potential risks. A cortisone injection can help temporarily reduce some types of joint pain. However, you should never use it as a primary therapy due to risk factors that increase with repeated cortisone shot procedures.

Instead, you should view cortisone injections as a complementary therapy that can allow you to undergo physical therapy and rehabilitation. By treating the underlying cause of your condition, you can reduct future pain. Arthritis-Health explains:

“Cortisone injections typically provide temporary relief. Most patients seeking better, long-term relief are advised to participate in physical therapy to stretch and strengthen their joints, muscles, and other soft tissues. Patients may also be advised to lose weight or make other lifestyle changes, such as changing footwear. These steps can improve a joint’s biomechanics and possibly decrease or eliminate the need for additional cortisone shots.”

For more information, talk to a doctor. You can find a pain specialist in your area by clicking the button below or looking for one in your area by using the tips here: http://paindoctor.com/pain-management-doctors/.

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