Cortisone shots are steroid injections delivered directly to the site of an inflammation to reduce the inflammation quickly, with minimal damage to neighboring tissues. The injections are usually given in a clinic as an outpatient procedure, and a patient may need several rounds in the case of a severe inflammatory condition. Other treatments, including pain management, may also be provided with cortisone shots to make sure patients are adequately cared for.
The body naturally produces cortisone, and in cortisone shots, a doctor is delivering a concentrated dose of this steroid hormone. The ability to inject straight into the inflammation can reduce side effects associated with taking the drug topically or orally. Usually, the patient experiences rapid relief, as the heat and swelling will go down. This will reduce pain, although a pain reliever can help to bring pain levels down to a manageable point more quickly.
Cortisone shots can be given in numerous locations. Some common sites include the shoulder, elbow, or knee, as these joints often become inflamed as a result of strain or stress. Joints in the hand and feet can be treated with cortisone as well. The shots are usually given with a small needle and an experienced doctor can minimize pain associated with the injection. Side effects can include some temporary irritation around the injection site.
Rarely, patients experience a problem known as cortisone flare. In this situation, the cortisone crystallizes, causing acute pain around the area for several days before the body breaks up and clears the steroid. Icing the region will help manage the pain, and patients who have had cortisone flare in the past are not necessarily at risk of developing it again. While there is no specific limit on the number of cortisone shots a patient can have, if the injections don't treat the problem, it might be wise to try a different treatment. The doctor does not want to keep using the same medication over and over if it is not providing a benefit to the patient.
General practitioners, sports doctors, and orthopedic doctors all can offer cortisone shots to their patients to manage inflammation. Patients may also be advised on reducing strain to the area to allow it to heal, and can be provided with advice on preventing future injuries. For repeat injuries, there is a risk of permanent joint damage, and the patient may need to see a physical therapist for evaluation. The therapist can provide exercises to improve joint strength and flexibility.