Cortisone shots also termed as steroid shots, are injections that can help relieve pain and inflammation in a specific part of the body. Generally, they are injected into two joints such as the elbow, ankle, hip, shoulder, knee, spine or wrist. Sometimes, the small joints in your hands or feet may also benefit from these injections.
Cortisone shots are known to offer fast relief of inflamed muscles, tendons, joints and bursa. The injections usually contain a corticosteroid medication and a local anesthetic. You can receive a shot at your doctor’s office. Due to its potential side effects, the number of shots you can get in one year is generally limited.
Cortisone shots are known to be effective in treating rheumatoid arthritis and other types of inflammatory arthritis.
They can also be administered as part of treatment for various other conditions such as:
- Back pain
- Reactive arthritis
- Psoriatic arthritis
If you take blood thinners, it is likely that your doctor might want you to stop taking them a few days before the cortisone shot, as they can increase the risk of bruising or bleeding. It is best if you discuss with your doctor what specific medications and supplements you need to avoid prior to your cortisone shot.
You also need to inform your doctor if you have had a temperature above 100.4 F or greater in the past fifteen days.
First, you will need to change into a gown. Then you will be positioned so that your doctor is able to insert the needle quite easily.
Then the area around the injection site is cleaned and your doctor might apply an anesthetic spray for numbing the area where the needle is going to be inserted. Sometimes, your doctor might also use ultrasound or a type of X-ray known as fluoroscopy for watching the progress of the needle, so that it can be placed in the right spot.
When the needle is inserted, you might feel some pressure. If you experience any discomfort, let your doctor know. Cortisone shots generally include a corticosteroid medication to relieve pain and inflammation over time as well as an anesthetic for providing immediate pain relief.
After the procedure
People generally have redness and a feeling of warmth in the chest and face after taking a cortisone shot. If you are suffering from diabetes, a cortisone shot might increase your blood sugar levels temporarily.
After your cortisone shot, your doctor may ask you to:
- Protect the injection area for at least two days. If you received the cortisone shot in your shoulder, it is important to avoid heavy lifting. If you received the shot in your knee, stay off your feet as much as you can.
- Apply ice to your injection site as needed to relieve pain. However, remember not to use heating pads.
- Not use a bathtub, hot tub or whirlpool for a minimum of two days. However, it is okay to take a shower.
- Watch if there are any signs of infection, such as increasing pain, redness and swelling lasting for over 48 hours.
Though complications are uncommon, they might include the following:
- Shrinkage, also known as atrophy and lightening of the color, i.e. depigmentation of the skin at the injection site, the introduction of bacterial infection into the body, local bleeding from broken blood vessels in the skin or muscle
- Soreness at your injection site
- Aggravation of inflammation in the area injected due to reactions to the corticosteroid medication