What are the side effects of a cortisone steroid shot?

Cortisone steroid shots, also known as corticosteroid injections, are commonly used to treat various inflammatory conditions. While generally safe and effective, they can have some potential side effects, including:

Pain or Swelling: Some people may experience temporary pain or swelling at the injection site. This discomfort typically subsides after a few days.

Temporary Flare-Up of Symptoms: In the initial days following the injection, there might be a temporary exacerbation of symptoms before improvement occurs.

Thinning of Skin or Tissues: Repeated injections in the same area over time can lead to skin and tissue thinning, particularly if injections are given frequently or in high doses.

Infection: Though rare, there’s a risk of infection at the injection site. Signs of infection include increased pain, swelling, redness, warmth, or drainage from the site.

Changes in Skin Pigmentation: In some cases, cortisone injections can cause changes in skin color at the injection site.

Elevated Blood Sugar Levels: Corticosteroids can temporarily increase blood sugar levels, which may be a concern for individuals with diabetes.

Weakening of Nearby Tissues: Prolonged or frequent injections in the same area can weaken nearby tendons, ligaments, or cartilage, increasing the risk of injury. Generally this requires multiple injections into the same area in a short amount of time.

Adverse Reactions: Rarely, some individuals might experience allergic reactions to the injected corticosteroids, which could include itching, rash, or difficulty breathing.

Here at Easy Orthopedics in Colorado Springs, we frequently treat patients with cortisone steroid injections for many musculoskeletal issues.

Does a cortisone shot affect the whole body?

Cortisone shots, or corticosteroid injections, are primarily localized treatments, meaning they’re administered directly into a specific area of the body to reduce inflammation and alleviate pain. However, while the injection is targeted at a specific site, corticosteroids can have effects that extend beyond the injected area and may impact the entire body, albeit to a lesser extent than systemic treatments like oral corticosteroids.

Here’s how a cortisone shot can affect the whole body:

Systemic Absorption: While the injection is administered locally, a small amount of the corticosteroid might enter the bloodstream, leading to systemic effects. However, the concentration that reaches the bloodstream is significantly lower than when taking oral steroids.

Systemic Side Effects: Although rare with localized injections, some individuals may experience systemic side effects, such as temporary increases in blood sugar levels, changes in mood or sleep patterns.

Adrenal Suppression: Prolonged or frequent corticosteroid injections can potentially affect the body’s ability to produce its own natural steroids. This can result in adrenal suppression, but it’s more common with oral or systemic corticosteroid use rather than localized injections.

What should you not do after a cortisone shot?

After receiving a cortisone shot, it’s essential to follow certain precautions to optimize the effectiveness of the injection and minimize potential side effects. Here are some things to avoid after getting a cortisone shot:

Avoid Overexertion: Refrain from engaging in strenuous physical activities, heavy lifting, or intense exercise involving the injected area for at least a day or two. This helps prevent strain on the area and reduces the risk of irritation or injury.

Limit Stress on the Injection Site: Try to avoid repetitive movements or actions that might strain the injected joint or tissue. Protect the area from excessive stress to allow the medication to work without disturbance.

Minimize Joint Stress: If the injection was in a joint, avoid putting excessive weight on it or engaging in activities that involve repetitive or excessive joint movement.

Avoid Immobilization: While rest is essential, complete immobilization of the injected area for an extended period is not recommended. Maintain light movement and avoid prolonged periods of inactivity to prevent stiffness or muscle weakness.

Avoid Heat or Ice Packs Immediately: Some healthcare providers advise against using heat or ice packs immediately after a cortisone shot, as it might interfere with the medication’s action. However, follow your doctor’s specific instructions regarding this.

Monitor for Adverse Reactions: Pay attention to any unusual or severe symptoms, such as increased pain, swelling, redness, or signs of infection at the injection site. Contact your healthcare provider if you notice any concerning reactions.

How long does it take for inflammation to go down after cortisone shot?

The timeline for the reduction of inflammation after a cortisone shot can vary depending on several factors, including the individual’s response to the medication, the specific condition being treated, and the severity of inflammation.

Generally, many people experience some relief within a few days to a week after receiving a cortisone injection. However, the full effect of the injection might take a bit longer to be noticeable. It’s not uncommon for the maximum benefit to be experienced within 1 to 2 weeks following the injection.

The corticosteroid medication starts working by suppressing inflammation and reducing the activity of the immune system in the injected area. This process takes time, and the speed of relief can vary among individuals.

It’s important to note that while cortisone shots can provide significant relief for many people, they might not completely resolve the underlying issue causing inflammation. For some conditions, additional treatments or injections may be necessary for long-term management.

I hope we were able to answer some of your questions about the side effects of a cortisone steroid shot. If you would like us to evaluate you for a possible steroid shot and are in the Colorado area, contact us below to make an appointment at Easy Orthopedics.

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