12 Likely Side Effects of Cortisone Shot in the Knee

A cortisone injection is a steroid injection (containing corticosteroid), which mimics the action of cortisol which I produced by the adrenal gland in the human body. This cortisone shot helps reduce the inflammation, swelling, redness and heat of the tendons, ligaments, or joints. By treating the underlying cause of the pain, these cortisone shots are able to help provide pain relief, but they are not actually pained relief medication. It is also important to mention that this shot s only used to treat the symptom, but it cannot cure them. For example, it may reduce the inflammation related to rheumatoid arthritis, but it will not actually cure the arthritic condition of the patient.

Inflammation of the joint is usually caused by diseases such as osteoarthritis or the inflammatory rheumatoid arthritis that directly affect the joint. However, if the soft tissue which surrounds the joint is affected by some affliction such as bursitis or tendonitis, then inflammation may occur as well.

Thus, this type of shot is generally used to:

  • Help treat diseases such as bursitis, tendonitis, osteoarthritis as well as rheumatoid arthritis.
  • It also helps relieve the pain from gout
  • It also helps in diagnosing the cause of the pain whose underlying cause is difficult to be determined
  • It helps people get ready to undergo physical therapy.

Usually, the cortisone shot is administered along with local anesthesia, which makes it easy to alleviate any sort of pain which is caused by the administration of the shot. Most people report that the shot is not very painful; there is only the feeling of needle pricking your skin followed by a burning sensation that disappears rapidly.

12 Likely Side Effects of Cortisone Shot in the Knee

12 Likely Side Effects of Cortisone Shot in the Knee

It can take up to 48 hours for the effects of the cortisone shot to take place. Once it has been administered, it can last for years and years or just for a few minutes. The potency of the shot depends of the severity of the ailment that you are suffering from. Here are the likely side effects of cortisone shot in the knee:

  1. Numbness: If the cortisone shot has been administered along with anesthesia, individuals may even experience immediate pain relief. However, the local anesthesia may cause the individual to feel numb. This may hinder their ability to move around properly, but this sensation fades away after half an hour.
  2. Cortisone Flares: If the cortisone shot has been administered with local anesthesia, a condition known as cortisone flare has been seen to occur in some cases. This cause the pain in the joint to flare up and this can last for up to two days, after which the beneficial effects of the cortisone shot slowly start to manifest Individuals who have been administered this cortisone shot will notice a gradual increase in pain and discomfort which usually fades after the beneficial effects of the cortisone shot take place.
  3. Joint Infection: A rare side effect is infection of the joint. When the cortisone is administered to the joint, there is a possibility that the area might get infected. In order to help prevent this from happening, it is important to make sure that the medical professional who is administering the cortisone shot to you is using a new and sterilized needle to help administer the shot. If you experience extreme redness and swelling, it is important to contact your medical professional as soon as possible. While joint infection due to the administration of a cortisone shot is not very common, it is important to report it immediately.
  4. Nerve Damage: There is also a possibility of nerve damage when this shot is being administered. If it is not handled correctly, there is a possibility that the administration of the shot may cause some damage to the nerves near the knee joint. Hence, it is very important that you seek the help of a trained medical professional in order to help administer the cortisone injection.
  5. Crystallization: When the cortisone shot is administered to the body, the corticosteroid which is present in the injection can crystallize in the body. This crystallization process can result in the inflammation and/or swelling to increase and become worse than it initially was.
  6. Discoloration: You may even notice that the skin on your knee, around the area where your shot had been administered, may become discolored. It may become whitish or jut paler, in the area where the shot has been administered. It is not known whether it is actually harmful to the body.
  7. Tissue Thinning: It may also be observed that the skin as well as the soft tissue surrounding your knee may become thinner. The area may look severely atrophied and result in the appearance of permanent dimples.
  8. Weak Joints: In some studies, results have shown that when there is prolonged exposure to the drug present in cortisone shot, harmful effects may occur. If an individual has to take the shot several times, then it might be observed that their tendons, ligaments as well as joints can grow weaker. Over time, it can also lead to osteoporosis or the thinning of the bone near your knew joint.
  9. Mood Swings: After you have been administered the cortisone shot, you may notice that your skin appears to be more flushed wither around your knee or simply your face, that you are experiencing frequent mood swing, that you have an appetite which is much more increased than before and you may also find it difficult to be able to fall asleep easily.
  10. Temporary Pain: The area on your knee where the cortisone injection has been applied may appear to have bruises and have a slight pain sensation, but it is temporary.
  11. Increased Blood Sugar Levels: Cortisone shot when administered to the body may cause you to have an increased level of blood sugar, and hence diabetic patients are high recommended to visit a doctor before you undergoing such a procedure.
  12. Allergy: It is also important for you to check and find out whether you are allergic to corticosteroid. Usually, allergies to this drug is low since it is just a synthesized version of a hormone which is already being produced by the body—cortisol. However, it is still important to check and let your medical professional know of any allergies beforehand.

If you have been prescribed blood thinners, have broken or brittle bones or are pregnant, it is generally advised for you to avoid the cortisone injection. Medical professionals also do not recommend administering the cortisone shot to individuals who are already suffering from some sort of infection, which includes skin infection or suffer from septic arthritis. For chronic conditions, individuals may be administered more than one shot over time. However, it is recommended that the number of shots administered to a particular individual at a particular location be limited to 3 or 4 cortisone shots a year.


In conclusion, cortisone injections are used to reduce the inflammation or swelling, heat and redness of an area of the body. While the shot is relatively painless, the location where the shot has been administered is quite important when determining the pain that would be felt by the patient. Additionally, it is also important to note that whether or not the shot is being administered along with local anesthesia is also important when it comes to determining the level of pain to be experienced by the individual.

The shot is generally quite safe to be administered. However it is important to check whether the individual to whom this shot is being administered to be allergic to the drug that is being used in the product. Additionally, medical professionals usually do not recommend that this injection be administered to individuals who have been prescribed blood thinning medication.

If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, it is important that you inform your doctor before you undergo this procedure.

The cortisone shot is not without its side effects. Although it is considered to be safe and relatively painless in general, some individuals who have been administered a dose of this shot may experience something called a “cortisone flare”. This will cause the discomfort or pain of the knee (the location where the shot has been administered) to increase for some time before the cortisone starts to work. The pain and swelling of the knee may increase due to the crystallization of the steroid which is present in one dose of the cortisone shot.

In some cases it has been observed that the area where the shot has been administered may become discolored or it may start to lose fat and become thinner. This may result in permanent pimples appearing on the knee. The soft tissues around the knee joint may also be affected due to this.

The bones located near the knee joint have a possibility of getting thinned out due to the administration of this drug and in some cases it may even die. According to some studies it has been found that taking multiple shots of this drug can actually weaken and damage your tendons, ligaments as well as joints. However, these results are contradictory to some others which have found that continued use of this drug actually prevents and slows down damage to the joints.

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:October 16, 2019

Recent Posts

Related Posts