Cortisone injections or shots are a common treatment that doctors prescribe for musculoskeletal issues. Cortisone is a steroid, and also has many other medical applications. Dermatologists, for example, use it to treat certain skin conditions and to reduce inflammation.

What is a corticosteroid/cortisone injection?

Corticosteroids are medicines that mimic your body’s natural corticosteroid hormones (cortisone and hydrocortisone) produced by the adrenal glands. They are not the same as anabolic steroids sometimes misused by athletes and body-builders, and they don’t increase your muscle strength.

Corticosteroids that are used appropriately can help a variety of conditions such as:

  • Arthritis
  • Tennis elbow
  • Golfers elbow
  • Bursitis of the hip, knee or shoulder
  • Frozen shoulder
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Herniated disc
  • Rotator cuff injury
  • Tendonitis

Cortisone Injections Cons

Cortisone shots’ ability to almost fully alleviate extreme pain is extraordinary, but there are some negatives to consider. The side effects that a cortisone shot can trigger may counterbalance or outweigh its ability to reduce pain and inflammation.

According to the National Institutes of Health, the side effects from cortisone shots include:

  • Dizziness or headaches.
  • Skin issues, including dryness, thinness, acne, dry skin, and red or purple blotches.
  • Fatigue and trouble sleeping.
  • Mood swings and disturbances.
  • Increased appetite, weight gain, and water retention.

Some side effects can be serious. These include:

  • Vision problems.
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing.
  • Swelling in various areas of the body.
  • Rash, hives, and itching.

Side effects can vary from person-to-person. They could be mild or severe. They might appear with short-term use or never show up at all. Long-term, repeated administration of cortisone shots can be particularly problematic, as frequent injections in the same joint can damage it, as well as the surrounding soft tissue.

It’s important to remember that cortisone injections alter your immunity function, lowering the inflammatory response that your body mounts to fight injury and infection. This will reduce pain and swelling, but it can leave you susceptible to infections and other issues.

What Are the Pros of Cortisone Injections?

While cortisone injections can offer substantial pain relief to some people, cortisone is not actually a pain reliever. Cortisone works because it reduces swelling and inflammation, which are major contributors to some painful conditions.

Another advantage of cortisone injection is that the anti-inflammatory agent is administered directly to the spot where it is needed. This means that the drug’s effect is limited to a specific area and you avoid having your entire system exposed to a high concentration of the drug.

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