If you are living with debilitating joint pain that keeps you from performing normal daily tasks or even enjoying hobbies and activities you used to love, corticosteroid injections may be recommended as a non-surgical treatment option to help reduce pain and inflammation. But many question whether or not steroid shots are safe.
In short, steroid shots are safe and effective when performed correctly by an experienced medical professional. Board-Certified Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Barbara Bergin helps answer other frequently asked questions to help you decide if corticosteroid injections could be right for you.
How Do Corticosteroid Injections Work?
Cortisone is a naturally occurring hormone in the human body, serving as a natural anti-inflammatory and pain remedy during stressful situations such as injuries. When injected locally into a specific area, corticosteroids, which contain cortisone, can reduce inflammation, and therefore pain, caused by arthritis, tendinitis, bursitis and other conditions affecting the joints.
What’s the Difference between Steroid Shots and Pills?
Steroids that are taken orally in the form of pills treat what’s known as systemic inflammation throughout your entire body, whereas steroid injections can treat a very specific area. So, if you are suffering from knee pain caused by arthritis, for example, a steroid injection can target that area and offer relief for that specific pain. Systemic pills or IV treatment won’t target specific areas in this way.
What Should I Know before Getting Steroid Shots?
It is important to note that corticosteroid injections can affect everyone differently. Dr. Bergin warns patients that they may experience a temporary increase in pain and inflammation one to two days following an injection. After that, many patients experience an immediate improvement in pain and other symptoms, while others notice a gradual improvement over the course of a week.
In general, it is recommended that patients receive no more than three to four injections a year, commonly six weeks apart, to avoid damage to the cartilage in the joint. The side effects of corticosteroid injections for joint pain are low, but they can temporarily raise your blood sugar, so this treatment is not recommended for people with uncontrolled diabetes.
When used appropriately, corticosteroid injections are safe, effective, and a common treatment option for many types of orthopedic problems including arthritis, tendonitis, and muscle and joint inflammation. To schedule an appointment with one of our orthopedic specialists, call 512-439-1000 or book online.