If you have joint pain, a cortisone shot may provide temporary relief while you address some underlying conditions, causing pain and discomfort.

What are cortisone shots?

Doctors prescribe cortisone medications—often called steroids—to treat a wide variety of inflammatory conditions.
In an orthopedic clinic, cortisone shots are used to treat joint pain caused by arthritis and arthritis-like conditions, such as gout.

What is cortisone?

Cortisone is a synthetic version of cortisol, a stress hormone your body produces naturally. When cortisone enters your body, the man-made hormone suppresses your immune system’s inflammatory response.
Even though cortisone and cortisol are both called: corticosteroids, glucocorticosteroids, or steroids, don’t confuse them with anabolic (testosterone) steroids. They are different.

Cortisone does not build muscle or enhance performance. It reduces inflammation. Cortisone Injections provide relief for isolated joint pain and inflammation associated with arthritis, gout, or bursitis, the inflammation of the bursa sac that lubricates the joint. The injections deliver cortisone directly to the inflamed and painful joint.

When should I consider having a cortisone shot?

If you experience joint pain that limits normal activities, talk to an orthopedic specialist. After discussing your medical history, your provider may conduct a physical exam, which may include X-rays, an MRI or CT scan. Then he or she will recommend a treatment plan that may include a cortisone shot.

Cortisone injections temporarily reduce joint pain and reduce inflammation in the soft tissues surrounding the joint. But by itself — without lifestyle changes — a cortisone injection will not stop arthritis or arthritis-like conditions from getting worse.

Cortisone shots can give you 6 weeks to 6 months to make a difference in your health. During this period, you can work on strengthening the muscles and soft tissues surrounding the sore joint through exercise, a dedicated physical therapy program, or changes in your diet and exercise routine.

The pain relief cortisone shots offer may also help you sleep better at night, which gives your body the chance to recover and heal.

Cortisone shots have limitations.

Most orthopedic providers will not give you more than three cortisone shots in one area in a year.

The overuse of cortisone can damage the ligaments, tendons, and cartilage in your joints. Since cortisone can adversely affect the tendons, orthopedic professionals do not use it to treat tendon pain near the ankles or kneecaps.

Cortisone shots do not cure damaged joints, but they can help you postpone or avoid surgery.

What are the side-effects of cortisone shots?

Like all medical treatments, there is the risk of an allergic reaction and a few other side effects. Talk to your health care provider about your health, side effects, and risks.
In some people, cortisone shots:

  • Cause Infection at the injection site. If you experience a fever or redness after your injection, see your orthopedic specialist immediately.
  • Raise blood sugar levels. If you have arthritis and diabetes, you will need to monitor your blood sugar closely for a few days as the steroid makes its way into your bloodstream.
  • May cause cortisone flares. If the medication crystallizes after it is injected into the joint, it can cause pain and swelling for a day or two. People who experienced this side effect said it was the arthritis pain.
  • Lighten skin. Cortisone can sometimes cause the permanent lightening of skin near the injection area.
  • Unlike oral steroid medications, cortisone injections don’t cause weight gain or water retention.

Before you have a cortisone injection, talk to your health care provider about your medications. He or she will also make sure you do not have an active skin infection or septic arthritis.

What happens after I have a cortisone shot?

For the best results, you need to rest for the first few days and let your body respond to the medication. Based on your condition, your orthopedic specialist or your physical therapist will tell you when it’s safe to resume normal activities. It’s important to follow their advice.

Remember, you cannot rush healing. Many people have tried to do too much, too soon, which caused more joint damage, slowed recovery, and had a negative impact on the results.

You don’t have to suffer with joint pain.