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Bone and Joint Health

Prepare for Your Cortisone Shots by Knowing What to Expect

Many people experience pain and difficulty moving certain joints, including the ankles, wrists, elbows, or knees. If you've tried other treatments and methods of alleviating your symptoms, but you're still experiencing pain or discomfort, your doctor may recommend you receive cortisone shots in the area that's affected.

Cortisone shots are injections that contain high doses of corticosteroids, powerful steroid medications that mimic cortisone, a steroid your body naturally produces. These injections also usually contain numbing medications to help prevent any pain. Cortisone injections are used to treat many medical conditions involving the bones or joints, including arthritis and tendinitis in shoulder, elbow, or knee. They help to keep inflammation levels low by preventing overreactions from your body's immune system.

What Happens During the Procedure?

Receiving a cortisone shot is a simple procedure that usually takes place in your doctor's office. Before having an injection, talk with your doctor about the advantages of this treatment, as well as any possible risks you may face from getting the shot. It's also a good idea to check with your doctor about having someone with you to drive you home — depending on the location of the injection, this may be necessary.

Your doctor will likely ask about any health problems you have, as well as what medications you normally take and whether you have any allergies. Then, he or she may have you change into a gown, depending on where you are receiving the shot. You'll be asked to sit or lie on a clean examination table, and the injection site will be thoroughly cleansed. You may be given a numbing medication that's applied to the injection site to help prevent any discomfort or pain.

For some injections, your doctor may use an X-ray or ultrasound machine to pinpoint the precise location for the injection. When ready, your doctor will carefully insert the needle through your skin, and you may feel some pressure as this happens. Then the medication will be injected into the treatment area.

How Long Will Recovery Take?

You should be able to go home the same day you get the shot. In the first few hours after your injection, you may actually notice a decrease in the level of your pain. However, this is usually due to the numbing medication your doctor used before giving you the cortisone shot. In the first few days after receiving the shot, it's possible that your pain level will be the same as it was before your treatment.

Many people have a small amount of redness and swelling around the injection site. If this happens, you can apply an ice pack wrapped in a towel or other protective layer for no more than 20 minutes at a time, two to three times each day. It may also be a good idea to avoid a lot of activity the same day you get the injection. If you notice any extreme redness, swelling, or pain, or if you start running a fever, contact your doctor immediately.

When Will You Feel Better?

Depending on the location of the injection, and the underlying problem, you should start to feel the effects of the cortisone shot within one week. For many, one injection provides relief from their pain for weeks, sometimes months. But it's important to keep in mind that your results may be different from another person's. You may have success with only one injection, but several may be needed to manage your symptoms. If you've had an injection and your symptoms return, it's best to check with your doctor about whether another injection may benefit you.

Cortisone injections may be a good option to help manage discomfort while allowing you to live life to its fullest. If you're curious about this treatment option, a conversation with your doctor can determine whether a shot may be a good choice for you. Your doctor can help you decide whether you could benefit from a cortisone shot based on your personal medical history and your unique symptoms.

Posted in Bone and Joint Health

*This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute health care advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or physician before making health care decisions.