Cortisone (corticosteroid) injections are anti-inflammatory medicine. They are not a pain reliever, but the injections have been known to relieve pain caused by inflammation. In the orthopaedic world, cortisone injections are commonly given in an inflamed joint, such as a knee, elbow, or hip. Cortisone can also be injected into smaller joints, such as the joints in your hands or feet. These injections treat osteoarthritis as well as inflammatory arthritis (rheumatoid arthritis, for example).
Advantages of cortisone injections
- Cortisone works quickly and can be directly injected into the inflamed area.
- Unlike anti-inflammatory medicines taken by mouth (such as aspirin), cortisone does not irritate the stomach.
- Cortisone injections have a good track record, providing rapid, powerful relief to many patients.
- The injections can be given right in your doctor’s office.
What you need to know before you get a cortisone shot
- Cortisone injections provide temporary relief, and they are usually part of a long-term treatment plan. Your doctor may recommend certain lifestyle changes, such as weight loss and physical therapy, to treat the joints for long-term relief. The goal would be to no longer need cortisone injections.
- For those who get repeated injections, the cortisone often loses its effectiveness. This does not mean the body no longer accepts the medication. It usually means the joints are degrading to a point where the medicine no longer works as well.
- Repeated injections can cause damage to tendons, ligaments, and cartilage. For this reason, patients should have four or less injections in the same place per year, and the injections should be spaced at least four weeks from each other.
- Cortisone injections can sometimes result in cortisone flare, which is an increase of pain in the injection site. This could last up to three days after the injection, but then the pain decreases.
- Cortisone flare does not happen in every case.
Read this if you have diabetes
- A cortisone injection could cause a temporary rise in blood glucose levels, so check your levels carefully.
- If you use insulin, you may need to adjust your insulin dosage.
- Check with the doctor who handles your diabetes if levels rise more than expected.
If you would like more information about cortisone injections, or to find out if they are right for you, please contact Hampton Roads Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine at (757) 873-1554 for an appointment with one of our providers.