How Effective Is Cortisone Shot?

A cortisone injection or shot is a shot of corticosteroid is typically used in order to reduce inflammation. This injection mimics the effects of a hormone known as cortisol which is produced by the adrenal gland. It works to reduce the activity of the white blood cells in the response of the immunity system in order to reduce inflammation in a particular area of the body.

These injections are not pain relief medications but rather, they help to reduce any pain caused by inflammation, by addressing the inflammation itself. Thus, they are able to provide relief from pain over time.

When are Cortisone Injections used?

A cortisone injection is used to treat inflammation, swelling, redness as well heat of soft tissue, muscles or joints. They can be used to:

  • Help diagnose the cause of pain when it cannot be ascertained by any other means
  • Help reduce the pain of inflammatory arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis
  • Help treat (but not cure) osteoarthritis
  • Help the patient be able to participate in physical therapy
  • Help the patent be able to rest their joint
  • Helps to treat conditions such as bursitis, tendonitis, as well as tendon nodules.

How Effective Is Cortisone Shot?

How Effective Is Cortisone Shot?

Usually, the cortisone shot starts to manifest its effects any time between 24 to 48 hours after it has been administered to the individual.

The cortisone injection works to reduce the swelling, inflammation as well as the heat of the joint. Hence, it provides relief from the pain symptom which is occurring due to the inflammation of a joint, tendon, ligament or soft tissue of the body. If the cortisone injection has been accompanied with a local anesthesia, individuals may experience immediate relief from the pain. Although the anesthesia administered along with the shot may cause the individuals to experience a numbing sensation in their body which might make it difficult for them to move around. This effect only lasts for half an hour. But it is generally recommended that they have someone with them who will be able to help them travel safely.

If the cortisone injection has not been administered along with a local anesthesia then it may take longer for individuals to be able to feel any relief from pain. Usually, the level of discomfort that individuals face increases gradually, but subsides after a 24 hour period. This may range from somewhere between a few hours to a few days. The cortisone injection usually lasts up to a week.

In some cases a single cortisone shot may be enough to treat the cause for the pain of the joint, however, in the case of recurring afflictions, regular doses of cortisone injections may need to be administered.

How long the pain relief properties of the cortisone shot administered will last is something which varies from person to person. Some patients have reported years of relief from pain, while unfortunately, others have only been able to gain a few days of respite. The effects of this injection have been found to last up to ten years. The extent to which an individual may be able to benefit from cortisone shot depends upon the extent of inflammation. The more inflamed the joint is, the more difficult it will be for that person to be able to seek relief with just one single administration of the shot.

In the case of most individuals, it has been observed that cortisone shot usually works effectively when it has been administered for the second time. However, there is some controversy regarding the benefits of administering multiple cortisone shots to a single individual. Studies have shown contradictory results; while some show that being exposed to this drug numerous times can weaken ligaments, tendons as well as accelerate the process of cartilage loss, but others have found that continued use can actually help in preserving the joint and slowing damage to it. Generally, it is recommended that the number of shots taken per year be limited 3 or 4 times a year, and for each location of administration.

Sometimes, for individuals who have been administered this shot several times, people may feel that the shot is not affecting them. This is not due to the cortisone not being able to act properly, or because they have built some sort of resistance to the drug, but because the condition of their joint is worsening. Cortisone shots are simply a treatment for the inflammatory symptoms, but they do not cure the problem (such as rheumatoid arthritis) which causes the inflammation to occur repeatedly.

In conclusion, this injection is quite helpful when dealing with pain symptoms. It not only helps reduce inflammation, swelling, heat as well as redness, and thus alleviate pain, but it also helps medical professionals to be able to diagnose the cause of the pain. This is very useful when the underlying cause for the pain symptom is difficult to locate.

The injection is usually administered along with local anesthesia, which helps reduce any pain that may be experienced during the administration of the shot. However, in general, there is no pain experienced when the shot is being administered. Most people only report feeling the slight pricking of the needle followed by a burning sensation which disappears quite quickly. In order to make sure that your shot is being administered to you properly, it is important to seek out a trained medical professional to help you with it.

Some people may not be able to feel relief from the pain immediately following the administration of the injection, and can even feel a gradual discomfort or increase in pain. It is known as a cortisone flare. This usually dissipates quite soon and is not a major cause for concern. To make sure that you are able to avoid discomfort from the injection, ensure that you give your joints enough rest so that the injection is able to work properly.

Do Cortisone Shots hurt?

When handled by experts, pain is not expected when receiving this type of shot. On the contrary, many people feel an immediate relief from the pain as the inflammation of their joint or tissue is reduced rapidly. Receiving a cortisone injection is similar to the pain felt during the drawing of blood. Typically, an individual who has been administered a cortisone injection may feel the initial pinching or pricking sensation of the needle, which is followed by a burning sensation that rapidly dissipates.

When administering this injection to soft tissue, it is usually accompanied with local anesthesia, which is either administered beforehand or mixed in with the injection itself. This helps alleviate any pain which might have been felt. However, the effects of the anesthesia such as the numbing sensation will usually wear off after half an hour of administering the shot to the individual.

If the injection is administered to degenerated, severely damaged really small joints, some pain may be felt. In rare cases, if the nerves are disturbed during the administration of the injection, the pain may be noticed. However, this pain is considered to be temporary.

Individuals who have been administered a dose of cortisone injection may experience a flare-up of the pain, also known as cortisone flare. This is a side effect of the injection which can sometimes occur. The pain is not necessarily caused by the administration of the injection, but rather, is an unfortunate side effect of it due to the presence of the steroid in the injection. This pain can last for any length of time between 1 and 2 days (24 to 48 hours), but will naturally subside after that and provide you with relief from the pain of an inflamed joint.

If you experience any pain during the administration of the injection, consider that it may be due to the area where the injection has been applied. Areas like the shoulder and the knee have a higher pain threshold; hence if your injection has been administered in those areas, you should not feel too much of pain. If the injection has been applied to areas such as the bottom of your foot which are highly sensitive areas and have a lower pain threshold, then some experience of pain is to be expected.

Generally, pain during the administration of the shot is not anticipated. To make sure that nothing is going wrong, it is very important to get these injections administered by a trained medical professional.

In order to make sure that you are not in any discomfort due to pain after the injection has been administered to you, it is important to make sure that you allow your joints to get some rest. Usually, if the shot has been administered directly into the joint, the individual is asked to stay away from straining that joint too much by exercising or performing strenuous tasks. According to many studies, by resting your joints, you are also allowing the injection to work better to reduce the inflammation.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:April 30, 2019

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