Pain from an injury can be excruciating, making it nearly impossible to perform simple, everyday tasks like walking or lifting groceries.

In some cases, a cortisone shot may help relieve pain associated with musculoskeletal injuries. The shot is administered by a physician directly into the joints causing discomfort and they can help relieve pain by minimizing inflammation.

What is a Cortisone Shot?

Old Man running on beachA cortisone shot is an injection that includes a corticosteroid medication. The body naturally produces corticosteroids and releases them from the adrenal gland when the body is under stress.

Corticosteroids for injection are synthetically-produced anti-inflammatory medications and not pain relievers. They should not be confused with anabolic steroids, which are known for their use among athletes for muscle building.

Cortisone shots are often used to treat inflammation in the joints, such as the ankles, knees, hips, wrists, elbows, shoulders and spine.

They can provide relief for people who experience many diseases and conditions including:

  • Arthritis – including osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis
  • Bursitis
  • Carpal tunnel
  • Gout
  • Lupus
  • Morton’s neuroma
  • Rotator cuff injuries
  • Tendinitis
  • Tennis Elbow

Pain relief can be instantaneous, or it may take several weeks. Duration of pain relief also varies from patient to patient, but many patients report relief lasting several weeks or months.

What Happens When I Get a Cortisone Shot?

When you receive a cortisone shot, numbing product will likely be applied before the injection. The shot will be administered into the affected joint. After the injection, massage the area or move it to disperse the medication. Ice should be applied to the injection site for the at least the next 48 hours to help reduce potential pain and swelling. The first two days following an injection, you should not participate in strenuous activities.

In some cases, the cortisone shot begins to relieve pain immediately. Sometimes, it takes up to a week for pain relief to begin. The injection can allow pain relief for several weeks, but this may vary from patient to patient and depends on the injection site.

If you are diabetic, a cortisone shot may cause a temporary rise in blood sugar levels. If increased pain, redness or swelling occurs 48 hours after the injection, you should contact your physician.

What Are The Potential Side Effects of a Cortisone Shot?

As with any medication, cortisone shots may produce complications. This also means that physicians will limit the number of injections a patient can receive. Usually, cortisone shots are not given more than three or four times a year.

Complications that may occur with cortisone shots include:

  • Thinning of nearby bone
  • Joint infection
  • Nerve damage
  • Softening of cartilage and weakening of tendons at the injection site
  • Temporary flare of pain and inflammation in the joint
  • Whitening or lightening of the skin around the injection site

Do Cortisone Shots Really Work?

Again, this depend on the patient. For a large majority of patients, they experience quick and significant relief following a cortisone shot. Duration and effectiveness will vary because of several factors including but not limited to: the joint causing pain, the patient’s biological history and previous exposure to cortisone shots.