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A Corticosteroid Injection: What it is and What to Expect


A corticosteroid injection is sometimes recommended when pain is caused by inflammation in the joints such as bursitis, tendonitis, and arthritis. A corticosteroid injection can also help reduce inflammation and pain when a rotator cuff is affected. Physical therapy and corticosteroid injections have been helping my husband’s torn rotator cuff, and the following information provides a firsthand account of what to expect during and after a corticosteroid injection as well as what it is, how long it takes to work, and the risks involved.

What are the Risks of the Injection?

Those with diabetes might temporarily have problems controlling blood sugar levels after a corticosteroid injection. Also, in rare cases infections have occurred that have required the use of intravenous antibiotics. Talk to your physician regarding any additional risks or potential complications you might experience or expect after having a corticosteroid injection.

What is a Corticosteroid Injection?

A corticosteroid injection contains more than one medication to treat pain caused by inflammation. It consists of depomedrol which is a type of corticosteroid, or it is derived from cortisone, and it contains two painkillers; marcaine and lidocaine. In conjunction, these medications work to relieve the pain, and up to three injections can be administered per year.

What to Expect During the Injection

During a corticosteroid injection, the initial needle stick is similar to the pain caused by a bee sting. This is typical of an injection. According to my husband, the most painful part of the procedure is when the medications are going in. However, the few seconds of burning pain caused by the medications entering the system is miniscule compared to the pain experienced because of a shoulder problem.

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What to Expect and What Can Happen After the Injection

Do not expect to gain immediate results after a corticosteroid injection. It is not a magic potion. It can take between three to five days to feel results. Give it an entire week before decided whether or not the injection worked to relieve the inflammation and pain.

After having a corticosteroid injection, warmth and swelling can occur in the area of the shot. This is not at all unusual. Do not be alarmed unless it becomes extremely painful or if the swelling and warmth do not subside. My husband did not experience any uncomfortable symptoms or complications. He did however experience a slight amount of stiffness in the area for about twenty minutes.

When to Seek Immediate Medical Care

As previously mentioned, temporary redness and swelling can occur in the area of a corticosteroid injection, but in extreme cases it is important to seek prompt medical attention. If pain, swelling, and/or redness continues, or if the area seems to be infected, go to the emergency room, and be sure to follow up with a visit to the physician that administered the shot.

Corticosteroid injections have helped temporarily relieve the pain my husband experiences in his shoulder, and they might also help relieve your inflammation that causes joint pain. Consult your physician to find out more details and whether or not a corticosteroid injection might help your particular condition as well as what to expect.

Source: Personal experience and information provided by Northern Indiana Orthopaedics