Long recognized as one of the most effective treatments for inflammation-related pain conditions and autoimmune disorders, steroid injections can provide a degree of long-term pain relief, decrease inflammation and enable the patient to move more freely and comfortably.
Why Steroid Injections are Effective
Corticosteroids are synthetic versions of cortisol, a hormone made naturally by the human body. Cortisol is responsible for reducing stress caused by illness or injury. It also effectively reduces the inflammatory activity of the immune system. When cortisol is supplemented by corticosteroid injections, the body’s anti-inflammatory response to injuries and immunosuppressive activities becomes stronger.
Conditions Effectively Treated With Corticosteroid Injections
Two principal types of conditions that corticosteroids have proven to be effective in the treatment of are joint and muscle conditions and diseases and conditions related to the immune system.
Joint and Muscle Conditions
- Adhesive capsulitis (frozen shoulder)
- Plantar fasciitis
- Joint pain due to injury
Immune System-Related Diseases and Conditions
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Systemic lupus erythematosus
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- Severe asthma
What to Expect From a Corticosteroid Injection
Steroid injections are most commonly administered in your doctor’s office. In situations where the injection will take the form of an epidural injection, the injection may be administered in a hospital environment. When it comes time for your injection, your doctor may briefly freeze the injection site with a numbing spray. Injections are most commonly introduced directly into the joint or the area between the discs in the spinal column.
The injection itself is a mixture of the corticosteroid and a local anesthetic such as lidocaine. Your doctor might use an ultrasound to guide the needle to the exact area most in need of treatment. The injection itself may be uncomfortable for a few moments, but rest assured that the discomfort will pass quickly and the local anesthetic will soon begin to provide some relief. You will want to rest for the rest of the day.
Corticosteroids take a few days before they begin to provide pain relief to the affected area. You can use an ice pack during the first 24 hours for 10 minutes at a time. It is best to avoid applying heat to the area until after the first 24 hours have passed. If the injection was administered to one of your joints, you will want to gently exercise the area.
Possible Side Effects From Steroid Injections
For most people, the side effects following a corticosteroid injection are minimal. You may experience some of these mild reactions:
- Pain or bruising at or near the injection site
- Increased appetite
- Slightly elevated blood pressure if hypertension already exists
- Elevated blood sugar for a day or two if the patient is diabetic
- Thinned skin at the site of the injection
If you develop an infection at the injection site or a high fever, please seek medical attention immediately.
If you have any of the following conditions, you need to make your doctor aware that a corticosteroid injection may not be right for you:
- If you have had a previous steroid injection within a few weeks
- Pregnant or breastfeeding
- Taking blood thinner medication such as Coumadin
- Have had a previous allergic reaction to steroids
- Have any sort of infection
- Have recently received a vaccine
How Long are Steroid Injections Effective?
The length of time that the medication is effective varies from patient to patient. In most cases, the corticosteroid will effectively reduce the pain and inflammation in the affected area for anywhere from four weeks to up to six months. In some cases, there will be only minor improvements. Corticosteroid injections are most effective when combined with other treatments such as physical therapy.
If you are interested in pursuing corticosteroid injection treatment for your condition, contact us to see if you are a good candidate for this treatment, or use the form below.