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Common cortisone shot questions answered

  • Category: Blog
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Dr. Joshua Alpert

One of the most utilized treatments in the medical field for orthopedic conditions is a cortisone injection. As an orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine physician at Advocate Sherman Hospital, I am often asked questions about cortisone shots by my patients and their family members. Below are the top five questions I typically get asked.

  1. What is cortisone?
    Cortisone is a naturally produced hormone released by the adrenal gland in your body during times of stress. A synthetic, injectable version of cortisone is available as a medication that can reduce inflammation, taking away pain and swelling in muscles, joints, and soft tissue.
  2. Who is a candidate for cortisone injections?
    Cortisone injections are given to patients with a variety of medical conditions including shoulder and knee arthritis, rotator cuff tendonitis, tennis elbow and bursitis. These are the primary inflammatory conditions where an injection of cortisone would be used and are commonly performed in the physician’s office setting.
  3. Does the injection help right away and last for a long time?
    A cortisone injection can take between 2-7 days to begin reducing the inflamed area. Depending on the severity of the condition, an injection may last anywhere between one month to ten years. Although cortisone can be administered to more than one area of the body, the general recommendation is that these injections are spaced out every four months per injection location.
  4. Are cortisone injections safe?
    Overall, cortisone injections are very safe. Occasionally, the steroid injection can be known to temporarily increase a patient’s blood sugar. For those patients with diabetes, we recommend 24-hour blood sugar checks after an injection. Too much cortisone may also damage tissue, which is why injections are spaced out every four months.
  5. Does the injection hurt?
    Usually, a cortisone injection completed by an experienced professional is no different than a needle stick for a blood draw. Each injection takes under 5 seconds to administer, and it is only one needle stick. Less painful areas for injections are the shoulder and knee, while more sensitive areas like the bottom of the foot have higher pain potential.

In my profession, I have found cortisone injections to be a safe and effective way to decrease inflammation and reduce pain associated with common orthopedic conditions. Ask your primary physician if a cortisone injection would be an appropriate treatment plan for your condition.