Common cortisone shot questions answered

Common cortisone shot questions answered

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.

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3 Comments

  1. Cortisone injection, any restriction giving to a CABG patient?

  2. Dr. Joshua Alpert

    In my experience there is no contra-indication to a cortisone injection for a CABG patient, but I would confirm with the Cardiologist/Cardiothoracic surgeon as they are the doc who would best answer that question.

    Hope that helps

    Dr Alpert

  3. Dear Doctors,

    Could you please inform me as well as other patients and doctors the importance of the location of a cortisone shot. From my experience, a cortisone shot injected spot on at the point of the problem is the most effective. I have had cortisone shots an inch to as much as 2 inches from the problem and they are not as effective.
    Some doctors have agreed with me 100 percent yet there are other doctors who don’t think it matters. In my experience from getting shots spot on compared to shots missing the spot makes a huge difference.
    I think this needs to be seriously addressed in the medical world for otherwise patients get cortisone shots that have very little or no effect.
    If I am right, which I am convinced I am and which doctors have agreed with me, then it is extremely important to locate the exact point of pain where the cortisone shot needs to be injected. Finding this point, cannot be an assumption. “One doctor told me that I know exactly where the problem is, pinched the area around the point of pain and yes it hurt because the whole area was tender but it wasn’t the precise point of pain and off by more than an inch. The result was only a partial recovery where when I have had shots at the point of origin I have had full recoveries.
    I am not a doctor but I believe plain common sense as well as experience as well as some doctors agreeing with me 100 percent makes this an issue that should not be overlooked and taken more seriously when giving cortisone injections.

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About the Author

Dr. Joshua Alpert
Dr. Joshua Alpert
Dr. Joshua Alpert

Dr. Joshua Alpert is an orthopedic surgeon on staff at Elgin-based Advocate Sherman Hospital who is trained in sports medicine and arthroscopy. He is a physician with Midwest Bone & Joint Institute, which has served the Chicago area for over 30 years.

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