What Are Cortisone Shots and How Do They Work?

A wide range of conditions are sometimes treated with the use of cortisone shots.

Also known as steroid shots, many people associate the term with performance-enhancing anabolic steroids. Cortisone shots, or corticosteroids, are used to help fight inflammation in the body, while anabolic steroids are a man-made version of testosterone used to increase muscle mass.

If your doctor or physical therapist has suggested that you take cortisone shots, you might be wondering what exactly they are.

Let’s take a look at what you need to know!

What Are Cortisone Shots?

Cortisone shots are also referred to as “steroid shots” and “corticosteroids.” These shots consist of a man-made version of cortisol, a natural hormone produced by the body’s adrenal glands. Cortisol plays an important role in a number of different body processes, including immune response, metabolism, and stress.

Cortisone is a kind of steroid that can help people experience less pain by reducing inflammation.

These are a class of drugs that reduce immune system activity and reduce inflammation. They can help ease itching, swelling, allergic reactions, and redness.

How Do Cortisone Shots Work?

When you take a cortisone shot for inflammation, they are injected directly into the location where the inflammation is occurring. Many people confuse cortisone shots as a pain reliever because some people do use cortisone shots for pain. While a cortisone shot can help to reduce pain, it isn’t a pain reliever.

The way that cortisone shots work is by preventing collagen production in the joint or tendon. This action helps to calm nerves and suppress inflammation. Indirectly, this can also help to reduce pain.

Some people experience immediate relief after a cortisone shot, while others might experience a gradual sense of relief over days or weeks. For people who are experiencing chronic or severe inflammation, the pain relief they experience might not be quite as robust.

Why Are Cortisone Shots Prescribed?

There are a variety of conditions for which doctors might prescribe cortisone shots. Let’s take a closer look at some of the common issues that cortisone shots are used to help treat.

Autoimmune Diseases

When people have autoimmune diseases it means that their immune system isn’t functioning properly. This can lead them to develop inflammatory conditions that are harmful to their health. The damage caused by this kind of condition can be decreased through the use of cortisone shots.

These steroid shots can also impact the way that white blood cells work while also decreasing immune system activity.

Inflammation

While inflammation can be a healthy response of the body in certain circumstances, too much inflammation can be a big problem. In some instances, inflammation can damage vital bodily organs. In these cases, cortisone shots can help to save people’s lives.

Inflammatory arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, might also be effectively treated through the use of cortisone shots.

Organ Transplants

Organ rejection is always a concern during organ transplants. Cortisone shots can help to reduce the likelihood that an organ is rejected by suppressing the immune system.

Addison’s Disease

Addison’s disease is a condition that results from your body not making enough cortisol. For this reason, doctors can prescribe cortisone shots to help relieve the symptoms of this disease.

These aren’t the only conditions that cortisone shots are used to treat. Some others include:

  • Hay fever
  • Asthma
  • Lupus
  • Hives
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Gout
  • Bursitis
  • Back pain and sciatica
  • Tendinitis
  • Reactive arthritis
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Psoriatic arthritis

Cortisone shots are most often injected into joints of the body, such as the hip, ankle, shoulder, knee, elbow, wrist, or spine.

What Are the Potential Side Effects of Cortisone Shots?

The potential risks of cortisone shots increase with repeated use and larger doses. Some of the side effects of this procedure include:

  • Nerve damage
  • Death of a nearby bone
  • Cartilage damage
  • Tendon weakening or rupture
  • Temporary facial flushing
  • Joint infection
  • Thinning of nearby bone (osteoporosis)
  • Temporary flare of pain and inflammation in the joint
  • Lightening or whitening of the skin around the site of injection
  • Thinning of soft tissue and skin around the site of injection

Researchers believe that it could cause damage to a joint’s cartilage to have repeated cortisone shots. For this reason, doctors commonly limit how many shots of cortisone patients can receive in each joint.

The general recommendation is that you shouldn’t get cortisone shots more than three or four times a year and that you should avoid getting them more often than every six weeks.

The presence of these kinds of side effects can vary from person to person, and not everyone will experience side effects.

What Are Some Other Considerations to Take Into Account?

You will want to talk with your doctor about the various pros and cons of getting cortisone shots. This can be a life-saving or life-changing treatment, but overusing it in the long term can lead to health risks.

When you discuss the possibility of cortisone shots with your doctor, let them know if you’ve ever had any negative reactions to medications in the past. You’ll also want to let them know if you have any allergies.

Are You Suffering From Joint Pain?

Joint pain can be incredibly uncomfortable, no matter the cause. Whether you are experiencing discomfort in your knees, hips, shoulders, or another joint, it’s common to also experience stiffness, inflammation, swelling, and loss of range of motion.

At Elite Pain and Spine Institute, it’s our goal to help you restore function and relieve pain. Contact us today if you’re interested in making an appointment!

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