Orthopedic surgeons and other healthcare providers often use cortisone injections to treat joint pain and inflammation. While cortisone injections can be very effective, healthcare providers will advise against overinjecting because of possible harm.
This article explains how cortisone injections work and their overall effectiveness in reducing joint pain and inflammation. It also outlines the maximum number of injections a person should receive each year and the risk of overuse.
How cortisone injection works
Cortisone injection is used to treat many joint problems, including bursitis, tendinitis, trigger finger, carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, knee arthritis, and many overuse injuries.
Cortisone is a steroid hormone that works by reducing inflammation. Inflammation is the body’s normal response to injury, infection or disease and is a means of healing itself. However, when the disease persists and the inflammation is chronic, the symptoms of inflammation, including pain and swelling, can become intolerable.
By using cortisone to reduce inflammation in the joint space, pain and swelling can be reduced and joint range of motion can be improved. Injections into the joint space are called intra-articular injections.
Injections of cortisone into the joint space, called intra-articular injections, can quickly reduce joint inflammation, pain, swelling, and stiffness.
A 2013 study JAMA (JAMA) found that 83 percent of people who received cortisone injections for tennis elbow improved or recovered within a year. Even so, about half of those who received cortisone developed symptoms within a year.
This highlights one of the limitations of cortisone injections: They can relieve joint pain and stiffness quickly and effectively, but they are not considered a permanent solution.
Also, cortisone injections do not solve all orthopedic problems. Patients with acute inflammation (that is, rapidly developing and recent onset) tend to respond well to intra-articular cortisone. Those with chronic inflammation (persistent and persistent inflammation) may find better, longer-lasting relief with physical therapy and other treatments.
Cortisone injections provide quick and effective relief from acute joint pain and swelling. Even so, the effects are usually not permanent, and many people experience a recurrence of symptoms.
Recommended maximum dose
There is no hard and fast rule about the number of cortisone injections a person can receive. But in general, healthcare providers don’t like repeating cortisone injections to the same body part over and over again.
Repeated cortisone injections are not healthy for the tissue at all.Over time, the injection can damage the cartilage and cause necrosis (death) nearby bones. It can also make diseases like diabetes harder to control due to its hormone-like action.
To avoid this, plastic surgeons usually limit the number of cortisone injections in any one space to no more than 3 per year.
There are exceptions to this rule. For example, if a person with severe knee arthritis is advised to delay knee replacement surgery, additional injections may be justified. This is because knee replacements are usually delayed as long as possible to ensure they last throughout a person’s life.
On the other hand, if multiple injections are required due to insufficient pain relief, then giving the extra injections may provide any real benefit. If anything, the shot would probably do more damage (in terms of damage to cartilage and bone) than benefit. Other treatments may be more effective.
Orthopedic surgeons usually limit the number of cortisone injections to any body part to no more than 3 per year. Exceptions may be made on a case-by-case basis.
Orthopedic surgeons and other health care providers often use cortisone injections to reduce pain, stiffness, and swelling in the joints. These drugs work by quickly reducing the inflammation that causes pain.
As effective as cortisone injections, their effects are usually not permanent. Because overuse of cortisone can damage cartilage and bone, plastic surgeons try to give no more than 3 injections per year to any body part. If there is a serious situation where the benefits outweigh the risks, exceptions can be made on a case-by-case basis.
People tend to like cortisone injections because they get immediate relief that lasts for months. However, this does not mean that the underlying situation has also improved.
With knee osteoarthritis, the damage to the joint is continuous and doesn’t stop just because you don’t feel pain. In fact, because you feel good, you may be putting too much stress on your joints and adding to existing damage.
Because of these and other issues, you should listen to your healthcare provider if they suggest you have a better option than cortisone. Treatments may not relieve symptoms immediately, but they may be more effective at protecting your joint function.