What is it?

Corticosteroids (more commonly referred to as steroids) are medicines that are popularly used for treating inflammation. Corticosteroids are injected around or into painful areas (including muscles or joints) to reduce inflammation and relieve pain. They are also helpful in reducing tissue swelling and for increasing mobility and function. These injections offer incredible pain relief up to weeks and sometimes months, depending on a patient’s condition.

Corticosteroids mimic natural hormones that are produced by our body, particularly by the adrenal glands. Corticosteroids must not be confused with steroid hormones for males and females, which are generally misused by bodybuilders and athletes.

Am I A Candidate?

Like all other treatments for pain management, corticosteroids injections are administered only after the patient’s medical history is taken into account. A physical examination is also conducted before the injections are prescribed. It is important to know that an intense or a sharp pain may also suggest the presence of a more traumatic and acute reaction with inflammation, whereas a low-grade dull pain signals a mild inflammation reaction, arthritis or a chronic overuse injury. Pain or additional neurologic symptoms, such as numbness, burning and numbness suggest additional neurologic involvement.

You will be prescribed steroids only when your doctor assesses your individual case. Many factors, such as your level of physical activity, your age and the medications you are taking, will help your doctor identify if you are a good candidate for corticosteroids injections. Your doctor will also explain the benefits and possible risks of these injections. Medication history is crucial since discontinuation of anti-inflammatory medications generally triggers a reaction. The physical examination is performed to analyze the severity and location of the reaction.

Evaluation of whether the inflammation is in the tendon, joint or muscle is critical. Trigger points in muscles can be identified if the physician uses the suitable palpation skills. Generally, patients know the exact source of the pain. Corticosteroid injections are a useful addition to several treatments offered for curing musculoskeletal/joint injuries and pain. Moreover, this regimen is more effective when it is combined with other rehabilitation and pharmacologic measure, such as stretching, NSAIDs and treatment modalities.

How Long Does The Procedure Take?

Cortisone injections can be administered in any qualified doctor’s office. Since the injection itself is generally uncomfortable, your doctor may offer to give you a local anesthetic to numb the skin. The injected area feels numb immediately after the procedure. The anesthetic generally wears off within a few hours. The patient may experience an aching sensation, which generally lasts for 24 hours but can extend up to 72 hours.

Although steroid injections successfully relieve the pain associated with musculoskeletal conditions, they are rarely used as an initial treatment option. Therefore, more invasive treatments, such as physiotherapy, hot and cold compresses and oral pain relievers should be tried first. Generally, the injection takes 2 to 7 days to show results. The effect can last for several days to a fairly long time.

How Long Is the Recovery Period?

Patients may need to rest the affected area for at least a day and avoid any exhausting activity for several days after receiving a corticosteroid injection.

Final Thoughts

Corticosteroid injections are safe but they must always be administered by a trained and experienced physician. Both general practitioners and specialists alike can properly perform the procedure.