Anti-inflammatory injections, including cortisone or steroid injections, are used to help relieve pain and inflammation in a small area in the body, such as a specific joint or tendon. This type of injection offers quick relief for inflammation and is most commonly used in the wrist, spine, shoulder, knee, hip, elbow or ankle.

Orthopaedic injections are often the first step to treat patients without surgery, helping to eliminate pain caused by inflammation and aid in the healing process. Here, our orthopaedic injection specialists share what you need to know about anti-inflammatory injections.

How do cortisone injections work?

Cortisone injections work by reducing inflammation in the body. Inflammation is your body’s way of protecting itself from injuries or anything potentially damaging. Inflammation causes the release of various substances, including hormones.  A cortisone injection reduces levels of these substances that stimulate inflammation. This can improve joint function and reduce stimulation of your nerves which leads to pain.

Are cortisone injections safe?

Yes, steroid injections are generally safe when used properly. However, they can cause some side effects, and we will get into more of that later.

Your doctor will weigh the risks and benefits of cortisone injections before prescribing them for you.

What conditions do cortisone injections treat?

Cortisone injections can be used to treat several conditions, including:

  • Asthma
  • Back pain
  • Bursitis
  • Gout
  • Joint pain
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Psoriatic arthritis
  • Reactive arthritis
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Lupus erythematosus
  • Tendinitis

If you suffer from constant pain from an illness not listed here, ask your doctor if cortisone injections are right for you.

What happens during a treatment?

Before your cortisone injection, your doctor will give you specific instructions about preparation. Generally, you will need to stop taking anti-inflammatory medications several days before the injection. You may also need to fast for a few hours before the injection.

In some cases, your doctor will have you change into a gown. Then, they will place you in a position to insert the needle. Your doctor will clean the injection site. They may also numb the area with anesthetic spray before inserting the needle.

Before injecting the cortisone, your doctor might need to use an ultrasound or a fluoroscopy x-ray to watch the needle being inserted in the right spot.

When the cortisone injection is injected into joints, you may feel a slight pinch, stinging sensation or pressure. Let your doctor know if you’re uncomfortable.

Typically, cortisone injections contain a corticosteroid to reduce pain and inflammation over time, as well as an anesthetic to provide quick pain alleviation.

What are the side effects?

As with any medication, there is always a risk of side effects with cortisone injections. The risk increases with larger doses and continuous use. Potential side effects can include:

  • Cartilage damage
  • Itching at the injection site
  • Pain at the injection site
  • Redness at the injection site
  • Temporary facial flushing
  • Temporary pain and inflammation flares in the joint

These side effects usually go away on their own within a few days. If they continue to be intrusive or bothersome, talk with your doctor.

What is the recovery like?

Most people feel relief from their symptoms within a few days of getting a cortisone injection. However, the full effects may not be seen until after a few weeks have passed. Depending on your condition’s severity and the reason for the treatment, you may need one to three injections to see results.

Up to 48 hours after the injection, a brief flare in discomfort and inflammation is also common. The pain and swelling in your injured joint should lessen quickly afterward.

Your doctor may recommend a plan for healing, such as suggesting you:

  • Avoid certain activities to protect the injection site for a few days
  • Check for infection signs, such as an increase in pain, redness and swelling lasting more than two days
  • Don’t take a bath, use a hot tub, pool or whirlpool for two days
  • Relieve pain by applying ice at the injection site

How long do cortisone injections last?

The benefits of a cortisone injection usually last for several weeks or months. However, the effects may wear off over time. If your symptoms return, you may need another injection.

Cortisone injections can be given every six weeks. However, they should not be given more than three or four times a year.

When you’re ready to talk about cortisone injections, give our office a call.

Cortisone injections in Cary, Raleigh, Morrisville and Holly Springs

At Cary Orthopaedics, our board-certified physicians are orthopaedic experts who strive to decrease pain and enhance performance. Injection therapy is just one aspect of our integrated approach to your treatment plan. The goal of cortisone anti-inflammatory injections is to provide enough pain relief to help transition from inactivity to physical therapy. Our orthopaedic specialists utilize corticosteroid injections to help increase a patient’s mobility and break the pain cycle that often persists after an injury.

For more information, contact us today.