Cortisone Injections

Non-Surgical Conditions

Cortisone Injections – The Basics 

Conditions such as osteoarthritis can cause unbearable pain and swelling in various parts of the body, such as the joints. Thanks to cortisone injections at Sports Med London, you can experience greater relief than oral or topical medications provide. 

The injections usually are a mixture of local anaesthetic and a corticosteroid medication, and they’re injected into the affected area, whether it’s your wrist, shoulder, spine, elbow, hip, knee, or ankle. Let’s take a closer look. 


How Cortisone Injections Work 

Using cortisone injections to treat pain and inflammation can lead some people to think that cortisone is a painkiller, but that would be a misunderstanding. When you’re stressed, your adrenal glands on top of the kidneys produce cortisol (the stress hormone) and release it into the bloodstream.  

One of the steroid’s functions is to reduce inflammation. Cortisone is one of the synthetic versions of the steroid. Cortisone stops collagen-producing cells in the area of the injection from producing collagen. 

The lack of collagen production reduces and prevents further inflammation, which soothes the nerves – and that’s what leads to a reduction in pain. It’s important to understand that cortisone injections don’t heal the cause of the inflammation, whether it’s osteoarthritis or anything else. They only help manage symptoms. 


Do Cortisone Injections Offer Immediate Relief? 

The time it takes for you to feel the effects of cortisone injections depends on a variety of factors. You may feel a reduction in pain within a few hours or a few days. Until then, you might feel discomfort or mild burning where you were injected.  

If it becomes too uncomfortable, you can manage it by taking a simple painkiller such as paracetamol and/or by applying an ice pack to the area. 

Although you won’t feel the effects of injections immediately, they are long-lasting. In most cases, they offer relief for a few months. If physiotherapy is part of your treatment, you may feel the effects for longer.  

The long-lasting effects of the injections, as well as the potential side effects, means that patients are usually limited to 3 per year. Immune system suppression, thinning skin, changes in skin colour, deterioration of cartilage, and infection are among the possible side effects. 

Cortisone Injections Page


Who Needs Cortisone Injections? 

As mentioned, cortisone injections are often used to treat osteoarthritis. They’re also used for psoriatic, rheumatoid, and reactive arthritis, back pain, bursitis, and gout. You can also receive injections for sports injuries such as: 

  • Runner’s knee – Pain and inflammation caused by too much use of the knee 
  • Golfer’s/tennis elbow – Inflammation of various tendons in the elbow 
  • Sprains – Partial tears in tendons and ligaments 

Rather than being a go-to treatment, cortisone injections are given only in certain circumstances. Make an appointment to find out if it is the best treatment for your pain and inflammation. 


Technical Information:

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 .

→ COVID-19 Guidance on the use of Steroid injections

NHS website