Cortisone Injections: What You Need to Know

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Wyatt Myers on July 4, 2021
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    1. Cortisone injections treat a variety of problems.
    A cortisone injection is a shot used to relieve joint problems, such as arthritis or tendinitis. This medication can be very targeted, or, if you have a systemic problem like allergies or asthma, you might get the injection in a vein so that it can enter your bloodstream and reach throughout your body.
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    2. Cortisone reduces inflammation.
    You might think cortisone is a painkiller because it’s commonly used for joint pain. But cortisone, a corticosteroid, is a drug designed to relieve inflammation. Inflammation releases chemicals that generate the sensation of pain. If you have less inflammation, you tend to have less pain. Inflammation is at the center of many ailments, from arthritis to skin disorders. That’s what makes a cortisone injection such a versatile treatment.
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    3. It provides quick relief in most cases.
    If you’re experiencing severe joint pain, you can get quick relief from a cortisone injection. You might also benefit from cortisone if you’re having an allergic reaction or asthma attack, a cyst, a flare of an autoimmune disorder, such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, problems related to your adrenal glands, or even cancer.
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    4. Many providers can give a cortisone injection.
    A cortisone injection is a fairly common medical treatment. Just about any type of doctor or healthcare provider trained in the procedure can give one as part of a routine office visit. Typically, the specialist who gives the injection will be the same one you visited for your specific condition. For example, if you need a cortisone injection as part of a treatment for joint pain from a sports injury, then the shot will likely be given by an orthopedic surgeon or sports medicine specialist. Find a doctor for a cortisone injection at
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    5. Your medical need determines how the injection is done.
    If you have a skin problem, your doctor might give the injection directly into the problem area; this is known as an intralesional injection. An epidural injection is given near the spinal canal for spine issues. An intra-articular injection goes directly into a joint. When cortisone needs to go throughout your body, you might receive an injection into a muscle (intramuscular) or vein (intravenous, or IV).
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    6. There are some risks and possible side effects.
    Cortisone injections are generally safe, but there are risks, including swelling, tenderness, warmth, bleeding, bruising, infection, or skin discoloration at the injection site. Rare side effects include nerve or cartilage damage; adrenal gland problems; sleep disturbances; a rise in blood sugar; menstrual changes; and, with an epidural spine injection, a headache. Repeated cortisone injections into a joint could eventually weaken cartilage, tendons, ligaments, and even bone in the area.
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    7. The injection requires little to no prep time.
    A cortisone injection is a fairly standard procedure, and you may get it during a routine office visit. You may need to stop taking certain medications, such as over-the-counter pain relievers and blood thinners, in advance, so be sure to discuss this with your doctor. With intralesional, intra-articular, and epidural injections, you may be given a local anesthetic before the cortisone. You should feel just a slight prick from the needle. You’ll be awake during the procedure.
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    8. Many people have cortisone injections during an office visit.
    Most cortisone injections are given with a needle and syringe and take only a short time to administer. Typically you can leave the office right afterward, though it’s important to follow up with your doctor if you have any complications later on. If you are getting cortisone during a hospital stay or with other medications, you may receive it through an IV.
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    9. Most injections are effective and last several weeks or longer.
    You should expect generally good results from a cortisone injection. In fact, you may notice some relief right away, depending on the reason for the shot. Joint pain and stiffness should ease within a few days, and the results should last for weeks or longer; sometimes they are permanent. If your pain returns, talk with your doctor about how often you can safely have future injections.
Cortisone Injections: What You Need to Know
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Last Review Date: 2021 Jul 4
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.