What are Corticosteroid Injections? (with pictures)

Deneatra Harmon
Deneatra Harmon
A corticosteriod injection may done in the hip joint to relieve inflammation and pain.
A corticosteriod injection may done in the hip joint to relieve inflammation and pain.

Corticosteroid injections often provide temporary treatment for pain and swelling in the joints. In this case, the patient receives the medication through a needle instead of as a topical cream or a pill. Doctors usually give the shot during regular office visits. Some patients require corticosteroid injections to treat symptoms of certain medical conditions and diseases. How long the injections last depend on the patient's specific condition. Doctors can also limit how often to give corticosteroid injections to avoid potential side effects.

Corticosteroid injections can treat pain associated with a rotator cuff injury.
Corticosteroid injections can treat pain associated with a rotator cuff injury.

Major benefits of corticosteroid injections include instant pain and inflammation relief. Such shots generally offer a last resort, temporary treatment option when anti-inflammatory pills or creams prove ineffective. The injections, which are given in a doctor's office, are administered through a vein or under the skin to get to the source of the problem. The needle used for the corticosteroid shot contains cortisone medication, to ease swelling and pain, plus an anesthetic to numb the pain immediately.

Depending on the location of the corticosteroid shot on the body, the patient may have to remove clothing so that the needle penetrates the skin and the medicine gets to the joints. The doctor also cleans the injection site with an anesthetic spray. The patient may have to avoid taking any blood-thinning medications or dietary supplements before treatment to reduce the risk of bleeding or bruising of the skin.

Corticosteroid injections treat pain and inflammation in joints such as the elbow, knee, spine, hip, wrist, and shoulder. Specifically, the injections treat symptoms associated with a rotator cuff injury, tendinitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, bursitis, and a frozen shoulder. Cortisone shots also remedy discomfort associated with gout, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, asthma, and allergic reactions.

A temporary flare-up in redness, pain, and inflammation may occur after the corticosteroid injection, but should subside within 48 hours. Protecting the injection site and applying ice helps with the pain and swelling reduction. Other recommendations include avoiding physical activity to ensure recovery. Following treatment, the cortisone should take effect after 48 hours and last for several weeks or months.

While corticosteroid injections carry the benefits of pain and swelling relief, they also pose some side effects. Complications include joint infection, tendon weakening, nerve damage, thinning of the skin around the injection site, and osteoporosis that affects neighboring bones. Corticosteroid injections can also elevate blood pressure or blood sugar levels and cause weight gain and easy bruising. To lower the risk of side effects, doctors often limit corticosteroid shots to no more than three or four times per year.

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    • A corticosteriod injection may done in the hip joint to relieve inflammation and pain.
      A corticosteriod injection may done in the hip joint to relieve inflammation and pain.
    • Corticosteroid injections can treat pain associated with a rotator cuff injury.
      Corticosteroid injections can treat pain associated with a rotator cuff injury.