Cortisone Shots and The Side Effects You Should be Aware of

Published: 10th April 2009
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What is a cortisone shot?

A cortisone shot or a cortisone injection is given to patients to relieve pain mainly caused by joint inflammation. The ankle, hip, shoulder, elbow, knee, wrist and spine joints are the most common areas in the body where patients receive cortisone injections. Outside of the common joints, cortisone shots may rarely be given to the smaller joints in your feet and hands.

An injection of anti-inflammatory medicine into the joint is commonly referred to as a cortisone shot, usually consisting of a mixture of corticosteroid and a local anesthetic. In some more rare circumstances different types of medications may be added to the mixture. The local anesthetic works to relieve pain in the short term, while the corticosteroid reduces the inflammation providing the longer term pain relief. Frequently it is your doctor who will give you the cortisone shot in his office.

Listed below are some side effects and rare complications that may arise from cortisone shots:

-Osteonecrosis - occurs when a bone dies near the cortisone injection point

-Joint infection

-Damage to nerves around the injection site

-Skin may thin near the injection site

-Pain may become worse due to a temporary inflammation which could last for as long as 48 hours

-May affect tendons near the injection site by weakening or even rupturing them

-May lead to osteoporosis in bones near the injection site

-Skin pigmentation may become lighter close to the point of injection

One of the more frequently asked questions are how often can you receive a cortisone injection? One of the biggest questions debated is what limitations should be placed on cortisone injections. The concerns are raised from repeated cortisone injection exposure that is suspected to further damage and deteriorate joint cartilage. This is the main concern of many doctors and for this reason cortisone injections are usually only given to a patient once every three months per joint. In rare situations more severe forms of arthritis may bend this general rule and these patients receive a cortisone shot once a month.

Another common question often asked is, how painful are cortisone injections? The pain associated with a cortisone injection is dependent on what the mixture of medicinal ingredients is. If you are having the more rare injections to the small joints in your hands or feet, then you are likely going to feel considerably more pain. Larger joints in your body such as the knee or shoulder will only trigger mild amounts of pain, while injections in other joints through your body will cause moderate amounts of pain.

How to Recover From a Cortisone Injection

It is common to feel a little pain and stiffness around the injection site after a cortisone shot. It is best that you continue with your daily routine as this is normal and it will just take a little time for you to start feeling better.

Here are a few activities your doctor may ask you to do in the first few days following your cortisone injection:

-Apply ice packs to the injection site as required to reduce the amount of superficial pain you are feeling

-Monitor the injection site for signs of infection. Symptoms of infection may include an increase in your pain level and redness or swelling lasting longer then forty eight hours.

-Be mindful not to over exert the joint that was given the injection. Examples being, if you had a cortisone injection in your shoulder, then you should avoid any heavy lifting. If you had the injection in your knee you should do you best to stay off of your feet for the first couple of days. You can still use these joints, just be mindful not to strain them with too much activity.

Earlier we touched on possibilities of an increase in pain and inflammation. This is commonly referred to cortisone shot flare. The flare in pain will usually lasts for up to forty eight hours, but when it subsides you should start to feel relief from your pain. As in all health concerns, if you have any questions do not hesitate to contact your doctor. Even if there is nothing wrong, confirmation from a professional often puts the mind at ease.

You can read more about cortisone injections here. Learn more about arthritis symptoms, diagnosis, and treatments at the arthritis of the spine column.

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