Cortisone Injections FAQ’s


What are steroids?

Corticosteroids are a class of medications that are related to cortisone. Cortisone is a naturally occurring corticosteroid hormone produced by your adrenal glands in your body.

How do cortisone injections work?

After injection, cortisone works to reduce inflammation in and around the joint. As a result you should feel less pain, swelling, stiffness and warmth and be able to function a little easier.

How long does it take for a cortisone injection to work and how long will it last?

Most injections typically take 24-48 hours to take full effect. If local anesthetic was given with the steroid injection, you may feel improvement relatively quickly. The duration of improvement varies. Some patients report months of relief whereas others find only a few days of relief.

How often can I have repeat cortisone injections?

If a significant benefit is achieved after the first injection then repeat injections may be used. There is some controversy that too many injections may weaken tendons, ligaments, and accelerate the loss of cartilage but other studies have found the opposite- that injections can slow joint damage and help preserve the joint. Occasionally a trial of three steroid injections sessions may be needed to determine if they work for you, usually one month apart.

What should I do after a cortisone injection?

If possible, it is best to rest the joint for 24-48 hours. Studies have shown this may improve the effect of the injection.

Can I drive afterwards?

Depending on what you had done, yes, as long as you feel you can safely control the vehicle. It is probably better not to rush straight off after the injection but to sit and relax for 10-15 minutes. That way you can be sure you will be able to manage on the road.

What are the possible side-effects of a Cortisone Injection?

Most joint injections result in no side-effects. Side-effects which rarely occur include: injury to the joint or tendon, loss of the fat layer below the skin, loss of skin colour, calcification around the joint, and joint infection. The joint may also ‘flare-up’ transiently after an injection. Long term use of steroids exceeding 560 mg of triamcinolone or its equivalent per year may lead to bone loss (osteoporosis), but your clinical team will keep a close eye on the use of steroids. Very, very rarely steroid use may lead to acute problem with a hip, increase in blood pressure, pressure inside the eye, and an increase in blood sugar.

When should I call my physician or seek medical attention?

If the injected joint becomes very painful, red, or swollen seek medical attention immediately as the joint may be infected. If the joint is infected it is very important to seek medical attention as soon as possible.

For people with diabetes

Cortisone injections may increase blood sugar levels. Patients with diabetes may develop high sugar level for up to 14 days. Please contact your diabetes physician in case blood sugar rises above 14 mmol/L. If your blood sugar levels go above 20 mmol/L go directly to the emergency room. If you use insulin, you may need a larger dose during this time. It is appropriate to check your blood sugar using a glucometer and test strips more often after you receive a cortisone injection.
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