Steroid Injections

What are steroid injections?

Steroid injections involve the usage of corticosteroids to treat a range of painful conditions. Corticosteroids are man-made versions of cortisol, a hormone that’s naturally made by your adrenal glands. These hormones naturally occur in response to injury or illness and to help reduce immune system activity and inflammation. In turn, steroid injections help increase your body's natural anti-inflammatory and immune-suppressing abilities.

What conditions are treated with steroid injections?

Steroid injections have been used to treat a wide range of painful diseases, conditions, and injuries. At HPM they are used for spine, joint and muscle conditions, such as:

  • osteoarthritis
  • gout
  • bursitis
  • tendinitis
  • joint pain
  • plantar fasciitis
  • sciatica
  • spinal conditions in the neck and back

What is treatment with steroid injections like?

Before the procedure

Before your injection, you may need to stop taking certain medications. Talk to your doctor about what medications you are taking and if you need to stop taking them.

During the procedure

Steroid injections are performed in a pain management provider's office or hospital. Your provider will have you position yourself in a way that allows them access to the injection site. Usually the injection is performed under image guidance, either with ultrasound or fluoroscopy. This helps your provider figure out the exact location to inject the steroid medication. The medication is usually a mixture of steroid and anesthetic (numbing medication). The injection may be uncomfortable at first, but the numbing medication should provide relief quickly.

The injections are usually given in the following areas:

  • joints
  • muscles
  • tendons
  • spine
  • bursae (sacs between tendons and muscles)

After the procedure

After the injection, the area may be sore for a few days. You can use ice on the injection site to help reduce the pain.

How quickly do steroid injections work?

Most steroid injections take a few days before you start feeling relief. Some patients report relief much sooner, within a few hours of treatment.

How long do steroid injections last?

Steroid injections can last from 6 weeks to 6 months. The relief can last longer, especially If used in conjunction with other pain management.

How often can I get steroid injections?

It's best to limit steroid injections to 3-4 times per year to prevent side effects.

Are there any side effects?

Potential side effects of steroid injections include:

  • pain around the injection site
  • bruising around the injection site
  • thin or pale skin around the injection site
  • dimples around the injection site (due to fat loss)
  • increased appetite
  • temporary high blood pressure
  • temporary high blood sugar, if you have diabetes

Potential risks of steroid injections include:

  • spinal headache*
  • bleeding
  • infection

*Although it is rare, injections in the spine have caused a bad headache. Call your doctor if you experience this. Usually it can only be relieved by lying down.

Steroid shots may not be right for everyone. Discuss your options with your provider.

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