What is a cortisone injection?
Cortisone also known as steroid is commonly used in combination with a local anaesthetic during intra-articular (into the joint) injections.
The steroid works by reducing the inflammation within the joint and therefore reducing the pain. It may take a few days before it starts to give relief, often it causes a mild burning feeling for a few days and the injected area may feel uncomfortable. This can be managed with simple analgesia such as paracetamol and the application of ice if required, the discomfort soon settles as the steroid starts to take effect.
What can steroid injections be used for?
Steroid injections are particularly effective for osteoarthritis of the joints but can be used for other inflammatory conditions such as bursitis or tenosynovitis where the tendon sheath is inflamed.
How long do they work for?
Typically they work for a few months but they may work for longer especially if coupled with a tailored physiotherapy programme.
How regularly can I have my joint injected?
There is concern that repeated steroid injections may damage the articular cartilage. Many clinicians will not inject an area more than 3 times in a year. If a patient has osteoarthritis and is considering having joint replacement surgery, it is prudent to avoid intra-articular steroid injections for at least 3 months before surgery to reduce the risk of infection.
What are the side effects of a steroid injection?
Typically an injection will cause a temporary flare and pain for a few days before settling.
There is a small risk of infection, cartilage degeneration, skin thinning or whitening (discoloration) if injected into a superficial site, in diabetics it may cause the blood sugars to rise, and in theory they may temporarily dampen the immune system increasing the risk of other infections .