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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  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.

  4. Dear Dr.
    I have severe pain in the bottom of my foot where I cant even walk. I was told by a podiatrist that there is not enough blood flow in my left leg which is causing this and he told me to go see an ortho for a cortisone shot to my back.. does this sound correct?

  5. Jackie V. Collins January 16, 2019 at 5:59 pm · Reply

    Question: How safe/risky is it to get multiple cortisone injections in a short time span? I have gotten a cortisone injection in each knee recently and I am scheduled to receive one for my lower lumbar within 15 days.

  6. Dr. Joshua Alpert

    Hi Jackie

    It should be okay to get cortisone within 15 days as long as in a different locations.
    For knees and shoulders we generally recommend to do cortisone every four months per joint/ location. If it is in a different location of the body there should be no issues. Just run it by your pain doc/spine doc to confirm with your doc/ make them aware.

  7. Sandi Christman April 12, 2019 at 9:13 pm · Reply

    My question is, evertime I get an injection, no matter location, I get lower back pain starting 4hrs after and through the night.
    Today I had one in a metacarpal joint in my hand and go figure here comes the lower back pain again. why is that. Is it just the way my body reacts to the steroids?

  8. My wife had a cortisone shot in her hip due to a slight labral tear but was not told she should stay off it as much as possible for 1-2 days. I ended up finding this out after the fact and she started to experience pain again (not nearly as frequently).

    The question is, would the two days of her being up and about immediately after the shot undo any possible relief from the cortisone? Thanks.

  9. Hi, I received a cortisone shot in my elbow a month ago (strained tendon while weight lifting). The pain went away and I got back to lifting weights. I re-strained what feels like the same area. I thought cortisone shots last for a few months? Isn’t the cortisone shot supposed to mask the pain, is it possible that the injury is much worse now?

  10. Dr. Joshua Alpert

    Hi mike

    Cortisone is given to decrease inflammation and take pain away associated with inflammation. It is not done the “mask pain”.
    Often after a cortisone Injection The pain can come back as the inflammation has come back.
    Hope that helps.

  11. Thomas Colella March 20, 2021 at 9:42 pm · Reply

    Can a cortical steroid injection in my elbow run down to my wrist and hand? I’ve had it happen in my thigh with a test shot for low T and it ended up on the top of my knee and it was hot and sore for a couple days so could this happen in my arm if there was 4ccs or more injected into my elbow? 1 hour after injection my hand was swollen like crazy and 10 days later it’s still swollen and my pinky knuckle is hard as a rock. No redness at all anymore just extreme tenderness and knuckle issue. Thanks for any help I can get on this problem. And it’s not cellulitis. No bacteria in the blood and no wounds or entry points and the injection couldn’t be the entry point because bacteria doesn’t work that fast to infect you correct?

  12. I get 6 mils total of cortisone injected in 3 sites on each wrist and hand every three months. ( one mil per injection) It helps a lot, and lasts 2 to 3 months. It seems to affect my bad knees and shoulder too. I lose all joint pain in my body after treatment.
    My question is, is that too much cortisone in my body at one time?
    Thank you and for your kindness

  13. Dr. Marilyn Morinis June 9, 2023 at 2:34 pm · Reply

    I have severe arthritis in a big toe as well as medium arthritis in my ankles.
    I also have Spinal Stenosis.
    I need help to figure our a plan for all areas. I have been getting cortisone shots for my lumbar area every three months. I read that as long as it was 15 days apart I can get shots in other areas.
    Does this mean that 15 days after getting cortisone in my back I can get it in my toe and ankles?
    Thank you.
    Dr. Marilyn Morinis

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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.