Steroid, or cortisone, is a powerful anti-inflammatory medication that is commonly injected by orthopaedic surgeons to treat painful conditions of joints and tendons.
Cortisone is a hormone that fights inflammation and is produced by your body. Cortisone shots can be used to treat some conditions permanently (trigger fingers can be cured by a single injection) and give temporary relief in others (an injection in an arthritic joint may improve symptoms for a few months).
The steroid medication is mixed with a local anesthetic mixture (lidocaine and marcaine). This decreases pain and also helps me confirm my diagnosis – if the painful area is not significantly better by the time you leave the office after an injection, the medicine is most likely not in the right place!
Risks of injection are small and rare, but may include allergic reaction, skin color changes, skin dimpling, and increased temporary soreness after the injection.
Many patients worry about cortisone or steroid side effects. You must distinguish between systemic steroids (pills) and local (injection in a small area) steroids. Systemic steroids can have significant side effects, especially if taken for long periods of time. The amount of steroid injected locally is usually so small that the systemic effects are almost zero.
If you have swelling and pain after the injection, try ice packs and resting the hand/arm for 12-24 hours. Call us if this does not improve your symptoms. If you were given a splint, wear this as much as possible after the injection to rest the involved area.
I would not recommend an injection unless I thought the benefits outweighed the risk of soreness and skin changes.
Mr. Donn Lenihan, of Rogers had this to say recently when I asked him how he felt after his steroid shots:
“It’s way better – I don’t even think about my symptoms anymore. I’m 85-90% better.”
Linda Ewing, also of Rogers, said this after a recent injection:
“It has helped tremendously – I’m about 80% better.”