What are steroid injections?

Cortisone is a type of steroid that is produced naturally by a gland in your body called the adrenal gland. Cortisone is released from the adrenal gland when your body is under stress. Natural cortisone is released into the blood stream and is relatively short-acting.

Injectable cortisone is synthetically produced and has many different trade names (Celestone, Kenalog, etc.), but is a close derivative of your body’s own product. The most significant differences are that synthetic cortisone is not injected into the blood stream, but into a particular area of inflammation. Also, the synthetic cortisone is designed to act more potently and for a longer period of time.

How does the cortisone injection help?

Cortisone is a powerful anti-inflammatory medication. Cortisone is not a pain relieving medication, it only treats the inflammation. When pain is decreased from cortisone it is because the inflammation is diminished. By injecting the cortisone into a particular area of inflammation, very high concentrations of the medication can be given while keeping potential side-effects to a minimum. Cortisone injections usually work within a few days, and the effects can last up to several weeks.

What are some common uses of this procedure?

Many conditions where inflammation is an underlying problem are amenable to cortisone shots. These include, but are certainly not limited to shoulder bursitis, arthritis, trigger finger, tennis elbow and carpal tunnel syndrome.

What can I expect during this exam?

The shot can be slightly painful, especially when given into a joint, but in skilled hands it usually is well tolerated. Often the cortisone injection can be performed with a very small needle that causes little discomfort. However, sometimes a slightly larger needle must be used, especially if your physician is attempting to remove fluid through the needle prior to injecting the cortisone. Numbing medication is often injected with the cortisone to provide temporary relief of the affected area. Also, topical anesthetics can help numb the skin in an area being injected.

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