Your doctor will advise you on which type of cortisone injection is best for you based on your diagnosis, age, medical history, general health, and possibly your personal preference. Learn about the different cortisone injections and ask why your doctor will use a particular type for you. 

Will I feel pain with a cortisone injection?

Your comfort and relaxation is important to both you and your care team. You may feel a brief pinch or prick during the needle insertion. Take a few long, deep breaths to help yourself relax. Tell your doctor or provider if any discomfort does not pass quickly. 

Types of anesthesia that may be used

Your doctor will likely use a local anesthetic before performing an epidural, intra-articular, or intralesional injection. The local anesthetic numbs your skin before the actual cortisone injection. Your doctor may combine the corticosteroid with more local anesthetic for the injection. You will be awake, but kept as comfortable as possible during the procedure.

What are the risks and potential complications of a cortisone injection?  

A cortisone injection involves risk and potential complications. Complications may become serious in some cases. Complications can develop during the procedure or your recovery. 

Risks and potential complications of a cortisone injection include:

  • Adrenal suppression or problems with your adrenal gland
  • Bleeding or bruising
  • Cartilage or nerve damage
  • Increased blood sugar
  • Infection
  • Injection site reactions including swelling, tenderness and warmth
  • Menstrual changes
  • Post-injection steroid flare, which is pain from a reaction to the crystallized structure of the steroid
  • Skin discoloration and skin or fat atrophy (abnormal shrinkage)
  • Sleep problems
  • Spinal headache with epidural injections
  • Weakened tendons, ligaments, bones and cartilage with repeated intra-articular injections

Reducing your risk of complications

You can reduce the risk of some complications by following your treatment plan and: 

  • Following activity, dietary and lifestyle restrictions and recommendations 
  • Keeping all scheduled appointments
  • Notifying your doctor immediately of any concerns, such as bleeding, fever, or increase in pain
  • Informing your doctor if you are nursing or if there is any possibility that you may be pregnant
  • Taking your medications exactly as directed
  • Telling all members of your care team if you have any allergies 

How do I prepare for my cortisone injection?

You are an important member of your own healthcare team. The steps you take before your cortisone injection can improve your comfort and outcome. 

You can prepare for a cortisone injection by:

  • Answering all questions about your medical history and medications. This includes prescriptions, over-the-counter drugs, herbal treatments, and vitamins. It is a good idea to carry a current list of your medical conditions, medications and allergies at all times.
  • Following any restrictions or recommendations about eating or drinking just prior to your procedure or treatment as directed 
  • Getting any necessary testing as directed. Testing will vary depending on your age, health and diagnosis. Testing may include X-rays or other imaging tests, EKG (electrocardiogram), blood tests, and other tests as needed.
  • Taking or stopping medications exactly as directed. This may include not taking aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), and blood thinners.

Questions to ask your doctor

Preparing for a cortisone injection can be stressful. It is common for patients to forget some of their questions during a brief doctor’s office visit. You may also think of other questions after your appointment. Contact your doctor with concerns and questions before a cortisone injection and between appointments.

It is also a good idea to bring a list of questions to your appointments. Questions can include:

  • Why do I need a cortisone injection? Are there any other options for treating my condition?
  • How long will the procedure take? When can I go home?
  • What restrictions will I have after the procedure? When can I return to work and other activities?
  • How often will I need cortisone injections? 
  • How will you treat my pain?
  • What kind of assistance will I need at home? Will I need a ride home?
  • How should I take my regular medications?
  • When will I receive the results of any tests?
  • When should I follow up with you?
  • How should I contact you? Ask for numbers to call during and after regular hours.