How Effective Is Cortisone for Tendinitis?

J. Beam

Cortisone, a type of corticosteroid, is a potent anti-inflammatory drug and is often used in injection form to treat a number of orthopedic conditions including tendinitis, also written "tendinitis." Tendinitis is the inflammation or irritation of tendons, a condition that frequently occurs around joints like the elbow, wrist and knee. The effectiveness of cortisone for tendinitis treatment is generally positive and cortisone is considered a safe treatment when used properly. Though with any drug treatment, there are both advantages and disadvantages to cortisone that must be weighed against its effectiveness.

Chronic tendonitis in the ankles can be caused by overuse from running or other repetitive exercises.
Chronic tendonitis in the ankles can be caused by overuse from running or other repetitive exercises.

Corticosteroids are available in oral, injectable and topical forms. Each form of cortisone has its own specific uses and effectiveness. For example, oral forms are absorbed and affect the entire body. Injections are localized treatment and affect the primary anatomical location where injected. Topical forms are mostly reserved for treating certain skin conditions. Cortisone for tendinitis treatment is generally administered in the form of an injection if oral medications and other non-drug therapies are ineffective or impractical.

Tendonitis is a very painful condition often afflicting the tendons of the elbow, shoulder, hip or knee.
Tendonitis is a very painful condition often afflicting the tendons of the elbow, shoulder, hip or knee.

When comparing the effectiveness of oral and injectable cortisone for tendinitis treatment, the side effects of each must be taken into account. Most physicians prefer to try to relieve inflammation and the pain that goes with it with a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) before recommending cortisone treatment. Though cortisone is a powerful and safe anti-inflammatory, there are side effects with both forms. The side effects of oral corticosteroids can be troublesome and include weight gain, fluid retention, increased blood pressure and moderate to severe mood swings. With injectable forms of cortisone, these side effects are generally non-existent, but carry different risks.

Cortisone is generally effective at treating the inflammation of tendonitis.
Cortisone is generally effective at treating the inflammation of tendonitis.

While cortisone injections can provide immediate, localized relief from inflammation and irritation without the side effects of oral corticosteroids or the stomach irritation of prolonged NSAID use, the local injection of cortisone may cause weakening of the tendons. Many doctors do not choose to use injectable cortisone for tendinitis treatment unless every other method of relief fails. The potential of tendon rupture increases when cortisone is injected directly in to the tendon. A ruptured tendon is not only painful, but may require surgical repair as well.

Physicians typically advise the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) before resorting to cortisone to treat tendonitis.
Physicians typically advise the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) before resorting to cortisone to treat tendonitis.

The type of treatment used for tendinitis will depend largely on medical history and the type, severity and location of the injury. Many times, tendinitis can be treated with a combination of medication and non-drug therapy such as immobility and ice. Prolonged inflammation, especially if the surrounding tissue, bones and nerves become affected, may require corticosteroid intervention. Cortisone injections often provide long-term relief of pain from inflammation, but be sure to discuss all possible alternatives as well as the short and long-term effects of cortisone for tendinitis treatment with a qualified physician.

Cortisone is often used in conjunction with physical therapy or other tendonitis treatments.
Cortisone is often used in conjunction with physical therapy or other tendonitis treatments.

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Discussion Comments

anon342668

I have been diagnosed with de Quervain's Tenosynovitis and had a cortisone injection into my left wrist just above my thumb in May, so it's been almost two months ago. I was instructed to wear a splint for a few days after the injection. It doesn't seem to have been effective as I still have pain, an sometimes stinging, in my wrist and cannot comfortably bend it either from side to side or forward and back, and there is pain in the base of my thumb when I try to flex it. Even picking up my coffee cup causes pain and there appears to be slight swelling. The doctor said the cortisone will continue to work, but it doesn't seem to be doing anything. What's next?

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