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Cortisone Injection

What is cortisone?

Cortisone is a kind of medicines called a corticosteroid. Corticosteroids are strong anti-inflammatory drugs. They can be taken by mouth, inhaled, used on the skin, or given by injection (shots).


Corticosteroids are not the same as anabolic steroids. Anabolic steroids are sometimes used illegally by athletes. These drugs are used to increase muscle mass and strength, but can have many harmful side effects.

Why are cortisone shots used?

A cortisone shot is often used to relieve pain and reduce the swelling of a joint, tendon, or bursa. (A bursa is a fluid-filled sac that acts as a cushion between tendons, bones, and skin.) These problems are common in knee, elbow, and shoulder joints. Reducing the swelling helps relieve pain and can speed up recovery from an injury.


A shot of cortisone may also be given to reduce inflammation over the whole body (for example, if you have an allergic reaction or a flare-up of rheumatoid arthritis).

How is the shot given?

The cortisone is usually mixed with a local anesthetic and then injected into the painful area. The anesthetic helps with the discomfort.

What happens after I get the shot?

When the anesthetic wears off, the area where the shot was given may be quite sore. It may help to put an ice pack, gel pack, or package of frozen vegetables, wrapped in a cloth on the area every 3 to 4 hours, for up to 20 minutes at a time. You can also take an anti-inflammatory medicine such as ibuprofen. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) may cause stomach bleeding and other problems. These risks increase with age. Read the label and take as directed. Unless recommended by your healthcare provider, do not take for more than 10 days.


The cortisone will start to reduce the inflammation and relieve pain within 2 to 3 days. In some cases, the cortisone will permanently relieve your symptoms. In other cases, the pain relief lasts from a couple of weeks to a year or more.


How well the shot works depends on many things, including the amount of medicine given, the cause of the problem, and if the shot is given in exactly the right area.


Chronic (long-term) inflammation can be caused by overuse. If you continue to overuse the injured area, the inflammation may come back. In this case, the cortisone shot will probably not help that much.

What are the risks?

Side effects from cortisone shots are rare. Possible side effects at the site where the shot was given include:

  • slight bruising of the skin
  • shrinkage of the fatty tissue under the skin where the shot was given
  • loss of skin pigment where the shot was given
  • increase in pain after the shot
  • infection
  • weakening of the tendons or tendon rupture
  • allergic reaction to the medicine

Diabetics may have a temporary increase in their blood sugar after a shot.


Cortisone can temporarily weaken the immune system. While receiving these shots, you should not get certain vaccines. Also, avoid contact with anyone who has chickenpox or measles, especially if you have never had these diseases. Your immune system may not be strong enough to fight off the infection while you are taking cortisone.


Disclaimer: This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information provided is intended to be informative and educational and is not a replacement for professional medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.


HIA File drug4278.htm Release 13/2010

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