Do you suffer from pain in your joints? If so, you may be considering a cortisone injection to find relief.
Cortisone injections are a popular treatment for joint pain, inflammation, and damage. Plus, they offer several benefits that can help you feel better. But what are they, and what benefits do they offer?
In this blog post, we'll explore the basics of cortisone injections and discuss some of the top reasons people are choosing to receive them. Keep reading to learn more!
What are Cortisone Injections?
Cortisone injections, also known as steroid shots and corticosteroids, are a type of medication you can use to treat pain, inflammation, and joint damage. A synthetic form of the hormone cortisol usually comprises them, which the small adrenal on top of your kidneys gland naturally produces.
Cortisol is an important hormone in the body. It helps to regulate blood pressure, metabolism, and the immune system. It also aids your body in managing stress. When injected into a joint, cortisone can also help reduce inflammation and pain.
Cortisone injections have been used to treat various conditions for over fifty years. They are a safe and effective treatment option for many people.
What are Cortisone Injections Used For?
Doctors and other healthcare providers use cortisone injections to treat inflammation across small body areas. Likewise, cortisone injections are also used to treat larger areas when inflammation is more widespread.
You can use cortisone injections to treat:
Arthritis is a common condition that causes pain, inflammation, and joint stiffness. There are many types of arthritis, but the most common are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Tendinitis is an inflammation of the tendons, which are the fibrous cords of tissue that connect muscles to bones. Overuse or repetitive motions typically cause this condition.
Bursitis is an inflammation of the bursae, which are small and fluid-filled sacs that act as cushions between bones and tendons. Bursitis often occurs in the shoulder, elbow, and hip.
Carpal tunnel syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition that causes pain, tingling, and numbness in the hand and arm. It occurs when the median nerve, which runs from the forearm to the hand, becomes compressed.
Gout is a form of arthritis that causes pain, swelling, and inflammation in the joints. It occurs when uric acid builds up in the body and forms crystals in the joints.
Back pain is a common condition that many things can cause, including muscle strain, degenerative disc disease, and herniated discs.
Several things, such as muscle strain, arthritis, or a herniated disc, commonly cause neck pain. In some cases, neck pain can also be the result of whiplash.
Muscle pain is a common condition that exercise, overuse, or strain can cause. An injury can also result in muscle pain.
Trigger finger is a condition that causes pain, stiffness, and clicking when you bend or straighten your finger. It occurs when the tendons in your finger become inflamed.
Plantar fasciitis is a condition that causes pain in the heel and bottom of the foot. It results from inflammation in the plantar fascia, a band of tissue that runs from your heel to your toes.
Cortisone injections also help treat other conditions, such as allergies, asthma, and certain types of skin conditions. Medical practitioners also use them to address both acute and chronic conditions. They can be given as a single or a series of shots, depending on the condition the doctors are treating.
However, physicians rarely use cortisone injections as a first-line treatment for any condition. There are usually other, more conservative options they will try first. These might include physical therapy, weight loss, and over-the-counter or prescription medications. Cortisone injections are typically only recommended when other options have failed.
How Do Cortisone Injections Work?
Cortisone injections reduce inflammation and swelling in the body's joints and muscles by inhibiting the production of chemicals called prostaglandins, bradykinin, and histamine.
The body produces these chemicals to help treat tissues that toxins, bacteria, viruses, or other agents have damaged. However, they can cause inflammation and pain when we overproduce them.
Thus, cortisone injections help reduce the number of prostaglandins, bradykinin, and histamine, which in turn helps reduce inflammation and pain. Keep in mind, however, that they are not painkillers. Instead, they help treat the underlying cause of the pain.
Cortisone injections are also only effective with acute inflammation or swelling that comes on suddenly. Chronic inflammation, or swelling that develops over time, is not as responsive to cortisone injections. They respond to other treatments better, such as physical therapy, weight loss, and certain medications.
What are the Benefits of Cortisone Injections?
Cortisone injections offer many advantages, especially for people seeking immediate relief. Some of the benefits of cortisone injections include the following:
Reduced Pain and Inflammation
Because cortisone is a powerful anti-inflammatory medication, it can quickly reduce the swelling and pain associated with arthritis, tendinitis, bursitis, gout, and other conditions listed above.
Cortisone injections provide long-lasting relief from pain and inflammation, often for several weeks at a time. In some cases, the relief may even be permanent.
Fewer Side Effects
Cortisone injections have fewer side effects than oral corticosteroids or anti-inflammatory medications. The risk of serious side effects is also very low when used in small doses.
Cortisone injections work quickly, often providing relief within a few days. It is in contrast to oral corticosteroids, which can take several weeks to work.
Cortisone injections are generally quick and easy to receive and can be done in the doctor's office with little discomfort. They also usually only require one or two shots.
When used appropriately, cortisone injections are very safe. Serious side effects are rare, especially when the injections are given by a trained and experienced healthcare professional.
Cortisone injections can be very precise, delivering the medication directly to the area of pain or inflammation. It allows for a high drug concentration to be given right where it's needed, with little or no medication reaching other parts of the body.
Overall, cortisone injections offer many advantages and benefits over other forms of treatment. If you're suffering from pain or inflammation, ask your doctor if a cortisone injection might be right for you.
What are the Risks of Cortisone Injections?
Like any medical treatment, there are some risks associated with cortisone injections. Patients can experience local or systemic side effects from the injections, though these are usually mild and temporary.
Local Side Effects
The most common local side effect from a cortisone injection is pain and tenderness at the injection site. But the good news is, they usually go away within 24 to 48 hours. You only need to take over-the-counter pain medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen, or apply ice to the area.
Other local side effects may include:
- Tendon rupture
- Skin color change
- Burning sensation
- Fatty tissue loss
These side effects are usually mild and temporary. Most importantly, they are rare. Contact your doctor if you experience any of these side effects or if they persist or become severe.
Systemic Side Effects
Systemic side effects are those that affect the whole body rather than just the injection site. They are rare but can occur with high doses, when the injections are given too frequently (three or more times a year), or when the medication is injected into certain areas.
Systemic side effects can include:
- Fluid retention
- Weight gain
- High blood sugar
- Facial flush
These side effects are usually minor and go away once the injections are stopped. Again, contact your doctor if you experience any of these side effects or if they persist or become severe.
How are Cortisone Injections Given?
Cortisone injections are usually given by a doctor, nurse, or other trained healthcare professional. The injection is given as a shot and usually takes just a few minutes to administer.
- The medical practitioner will clean the area with an antiseptic solution.
- They will use a small needle to inject the cortisone medication into the area of pain or inflammation. The needle is usually thin, so the shot is generally not painful.
- A bigger needle could be used if they need to remove excess fluid from the area before giving the injection. It is called aspiration and may cause some discomfort.
- Once the injection is given, a bandage may be placed over the area.
Here's an important thing to remember: small joints, such as those in the hands and feet, are more sensitive than larger joints, such as the hip or shoulder. As a result, cortisone injections in small joints may be more likely to cause pain and tenderness at the injection site.
If you're receiving a cortisone injection for the first time, ask your doctor or healthcare provider about what you can expect. Doing so will help you prepare for the shot and know what to expect afterward.
How Long Do Cortisone Injections Last?
The effects of a cortisone injection can last anywhere from several days to several weeks. The length of time will depend on the reason for the injection, the amount of cortisone used, and how often the injections are given.
Some people may only need one cortisone injection to get relief, while others may need a series of shots over time. In general, it's best to wait at least a month between injections to give the body time to respond.
How Often Can You Get Cortisone Injections?
There is no set answer to how often you can receive a cortisone injection. The frequency will depend on the reason for the injection, the amount of cortisone used, and how long the effects of the injection last.
Some people may only need one cortisone injection to feel its full effects. On the other hand, others may need to double or triple that amount because the medication's impact easily wears off over time.
But as mentioned, you should wait at least a month between injections to give your body a chance to respond. It is especially important if you're receiving multiple injections or at risk for developing side effects.
VerywellHealth also shares that orthopedic surgeons generally don't recommend getting more than three cortisone injections in a year for any joint. This is because repeated cortisone shots can weaken tendons and cartilage.
Ultimately, it's up to your doctor to determine how often you need an injection. Speak with them about how often you can receive a cortisone injection and what to expect to help you make the best decision.
Who Can't Get Cortisone Injections?
Cortisone injections are generally considered safe for most people. However, some people should avoid this medication or take extra precautions.
Medical professionals should not give cortisone injections to:
- People with an infection near the injection site
- People with an active skin infection
- People who are allergic to corticosteroids
- Pregnant women or women who are breastfeeding
- Young children
If you have any of the above conditions, let your doctor know before you receive a cortisone injection. They may be able to offer an alternative treatment or take extra precautions to ensure your safety.
What are Cortisone Injection Alternatives?
You can try a few things if you're looking for other treatment options, don't like the idea of needles, or can't receive a cortisone injection for any reason. They may not be as effective as cortisone injections, but they may offer some relief and help you avoid any potential side effects.
Cortisone injection alternatives include:
- Oral corticosteroids
- Anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen or naproxen
- Topical corticosteroids, such as creams, gels, or ointments
- Physical therapy
- Weight loss (if you're overweight)
- Surgery (in some cases)
- Corticosteroid medications in pill form
Because these are alternative treatments, you must speak with your doctor before trying them. Avoid self-medicating, as this can be dangerous and worsen your condition. Additionally, some of the above treatments may interact with other medications you're taking or cause side effects.
Consult the Experts
Cortisone injections are a safe and effective way to treat many different types of pain and inflammation. They are effective alternatives to other forms of treatment, such as surgery or medication, and provide many benefits to those seeking relief.
If you are experiencing pain and think you may benefit from a cortisone injection, don't hesitate to get in touch with Summit Orthopedics today to schedule an appointment with one of our specialists. We help you get relief from your pain and improve your quality of life today.