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What’s a Steroid Injection?

Steroid injections refer to a type of treatment procedure in which neurosurgeons inject a high dose of medication directly to a problem spot in the body (Buchbinder, Green, & Youd, 2003). Neurosurgeons widely used this type of treatment for joint problems and rheumatoid arthritis. These medications also help to cure some conditions affecting soft tissues, such as tendon inflammation or tennis elbow. The medications include steroids or corticosteroids that help reduce inflammation. Usually, the adrenal gland produces corticosteroid hormones, but here physicians use synthetic versions of those hormones to treat a wide range of conditions. Although effective and fast-acting, Steroid Injections may possess some side effects.

Doctors may inject corticosteroids into the joints, muscles, and tissues with the area around the spine and the bloodstream. Intravenous steroid injections help to treat serious inflammation throughout the body. Steroids such as hydrocortisone found effective for bursitis and muscle and tendon pain. Other steroids such as triamcinolone and methylprednisolone treat painful joints very well.

What Conditions Do Steroid Injections Treat?

The main purpose of a steroid injection includes decreasing pain and increasing the movement of the affected joints. Neurosurgeons recommend steroid injection rather than steroid tablets that can cause serious side effects. A local steroid injection helps to reduce the inflammation and pain in a joint. Patients with rheumatoid arthritis or other causes of joint pain and swelling such as osteoarthritis, gout, or frozen shoulder may try steroid injections to relieve their symptoms. Physicians also use this type of injection in case of soft tissue inflammation, such as

  • Inflammation of the bursa (bursitis), prepatellar bursitis, olecranon bursitis
  • Tennis elbow
  • Nerve compression such as carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Foot problems such as plantar fasciitis
  • Shoulder rotator cuff disorders
  • Localized trigger point that causes severe pain in the muscle
  • Abnormal growth of the nerve tissue or neuroma

Also, spinal specialists may use corticosteroid injections to treat a wide range of conditions, including (Koh, 2016):

  • Arthritis
  • Disc problems
  • Asthma
  • Allergic reaction
  • Hay fever
  • Sciatica
  • Joint pain
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Several autoimmune diseases, such as lupus and multiple sclerosis (MS), etc.

How Long Do Local Steroid Injections Take to Work?

Usually, spinal specialists inject those injections into the patient in a very clean (sterile) environment to prevent infection. Patients need to rest the injected joint for a minimum of 1 or 2 days after the injection and avoid vigorous activity for at least 5 days. Physicians repeat the dose of injection after the success of the first injection. Physicians suggest not to take more than 4 injections into the same area within 12 months (Wang et al., 2017).

Short-acting steroid injections provide quick relief from the pain and this lasts for almost 1 week. Besides this, the longer-acting steroid injections take about a week to turn effective and last almost 2 months or longer. Neurosurgeons use a local anesthetic with steroids while injecting to reduce the discomfort of the injection. Simple painkillers like paracetamol may help after the injection of steroids into joint or soft tissue.

What’s the Side Effects of Steroid Injections?

Though unlikely, steroid injections have some minor side effects that depend upon the patient’s body conditions, hereditary factors, etc. Patients usually observe a flare-up of pain in the injected area within the first 24 hours after injection. A simple painkiller may help in this condition. But some other side effects may include (Zhong et al., 2020):

  • Infection caused by secondary bacteria invasion
  • Allergic reactions
  • Local swelling and bleeding
  • A flushed face
  • Bruising at the injection site
  • Rupture of a tendon
  • Changes in the color of the skin
  • Diabetic patient may observe an elevation of blood sugar levels within a few days after injection

Several studies also reported some serious effects of steroid injections on soft tissue structures like loss of cartilage tissue (Ranalletta et al., 2016). Sometimes, epidural injections can cause headaches in the patient. Intravenous administration of the injection may result in changes in mood, increased appetite, and difficulty sleeping. Anyone having these particular side effects should contact physicians at our Facility.

When Shouldn’t you use Steroid Injections?

Patients taking blood-thinning (anticoagulant) medication like warfarin or having some potential bleeding problem should not receive steroid injections that may cause bleeding at the site of the injection.

Frequent administration of steroids increases the risk of weakening the bone and soft tissues in the injected area. Physicians widely recommend taking steroid injections once every three or four months. Physicians prescribe 1 or 2 short courses of intravenous steroids before switching to treatment with oral steroids to avoid further problems. Depending on the condition treated, a spinal specialist suggests using physiotherapy and occupational therapy to treat the patient’s conditions.

If You Think You May Benefit From A Steroid Injection in the Fort Worth Area, Contact Longhorn Brain & Spine Immediately To Get a Consultation.



Buchbinder, R., Green, S., & Youd, J. (2003). Corticosteroid injections for shoulder pain. Physiotherapy, 89(3), 140.

Koh, K. H. (2016). Corticosteroid injection for adhesive capsulitis in primarCorticosteroid primary care: A systematic review of randomised clinical trials. Singapore Medical Journal, 57(12), 646–657.

Ranalletta, M., Rossi, L. A., Bongiovanni, S. L., Tanoira, I., Elizondo, C. M., & Maignon, G. D. (2016). Corticosteroid Injections Accelerate Pain Relief and Recovery of Function Compared with Oral NSAIDs in Patients with Adhesive Capsulitis: A Randomized Controlled Tria. American Journal of Sports Medicine, 44(2), 474–481.

Wang, W., Shi, M., Zhou, C., Shi, Z., Cai, X., Lin, T., & Yan, S. (2017). Effectiveness of corticosteroid injections in adhesive capsulitis of shoulder. Medicine (United States), 96(28).

Zhong, H. M., Zhao, G. F., Lin, T., Zhang, X. X., Li, X. Y., Lin, J. F., … Pan, Z. J. (2020). Intra-Articular Steroid Injection for Patients with Hip Osteoarthritis: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. BioMed Research International, 2020.