What’s a Cortisone Shot?

A cortisone shot, or corticosteroid injection, is a medical procedure in which a healthcare professional injects a corticosteroid medication into a specific area of the body to reduce inflammation and alleviate pain. Corticosteroids are powerful anti-inflammatory medications that mimic the effects of natural hormones produced by the body’s adrenal glands.

Cortisone shots are commonly used to treat various inflammatory conditions in different parts of the body, including joints, tendons, bursae, and soft tissues. Some common conditions treated with cortisone shots include:

  1. Joint Inflammation: Conditions such as arthritis, including osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
  2. Tendonitis: Inflammation of tendons, such as tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis) or golfer’s elbow (medial epicondylitis).
  3. Bursitis: Inflammation of bursae, which are small fluid-filled sacs that cushion and reduce friction in joints.
  4. Plantar Fasciitis: Inflammation of the thick band of tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot.
  5. Allergic Reactions: Cortisone shots may be used to treat severe allergic reactions.

The Procedure:

The cortisone shot procedure is relatively straightforward and typically performed in a healthcare provider’s office or clinic. The steps involved in the procedure are as follows:

  1. Preparation: The healthcare provider cleans the skin around the injection site to reduce the risk of infection.
  2. Local Anesthesia (Optional): In some cases, a local anesthetic may be applied to numb the area before the injection. This can help minimize discomfort during the procedure.
  3. Injection: The corticosteroid medication is injected directly into the targeted area, such as a joint, tendon, or bursa. Sometimes, a combination of corticosteroid and a local anesthetic (lidocaine) is injected for both immediate pain relief and long-term anti-inflammatory effects.
  4. Post-Injection Care: After the injection, the patient may be advised to rest the affected area for a short time and avoid strenuous activities.

Benefits and Risks:

Cortisone shots can relieve pain and inflammation significantly, often allowing individuals to resume normal activities with reduced discomfort.  The benefits are usually temporary; additional injections may be necessary for long-term relief.

However, cortisone shots are not without risks, and potential side effects include:

  • Localized pain or discomfort at the injection site.
  • The temporary flare-up of symptoms before the corticosteroid takes effect.
  • Thinning of the skin at the injection site.
  • Temporary changes in blood sugar levels (more relevant for individuals with diabetes).
  • Tendon or ligament weakening (rare but possible with repeated injections).

It’s essential to discuss the risks and benefits of cortisone shots with a healthcare professional before deciding on this treatment option. The frequency and number of injections recommended will depend on the specific condition being treated and the individual’s response to the treatment.




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