What is Cortisone? & Do I Need One?

cortisone injection

What is cortisone?

Cortisone is a corticosteroid and a powerful anti-inflammatory medication. If you have pain caused by your joints or soft tissues, cortisone can be injected directly into the area to give fast pain relief from inflammation. It is administered under Ultrasound to ensure the contents are going into the exact spot causing your pain. The cortisone injection is generally given alongside a local anesthetic for immediate pain relief. It is a quick option for pain relief.

What is it used for?

Cortisone injections can become part of treatment for inflammatory conditions such as:

  • Osteoarthritis (commonly in the 1st toe, knee, spine)
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Bursitis (commonly shoulder, hip)
  • Tendinitis (commonly shoulder, elbow, hip)
  • Spinal Pain (commonly lower back and neck pain, and often if referring into the leg/arm)
  • Gout (often in the 1st toe)

When should I consider a Cortisone injection?

There are 3 main reasons why your GP might prescribe you a cortisone injection:

  1. Your pain is significant (very intense)
  2. Your pain/injury is slow to improve
  3. You have had your pain/injury for a long time.

Does it work?

The relief from cortisone is different for everyone. Some say it works like magic, and others do not report as good results.

While it is common to feel immediate relief after the injection, do not be fooled. This immediate relief is most likely due to the anesthetic that has been administered with the corticosteroid (all in the same injection). The anesthetic will wear off in around 24hours. The effects of the corticosteroid itself may take 2-4 weeks to feel the full benefit.

Longer-term results can vary among people and can depend on the reason for the injection. Injuries caused by sudden traumas such as falls, bumps and accidents may get better results with cortisone on its own. However, if your injury occurred for other reasons, such as overuse injuries or chronic pains, it is important to seek physiotherapy along side of the cortisone. This is because although the cortisone may provide relief for a few weeks or months, if the underlying cause of the injury (eg altered biomechanics or a muscle weakness) is not also fixed, then it is likely that the injury and pain will return.

I want one! Gimme, Gimme Gimme. How do I get it?

If you are interested in possibly having a cortisone injection, have a chat with your GP. Your physio will be able to give you advice and information, however it is ultimately up to you and your GP.

A bit extra info

  1. As a side note, at Phyx, our physios are rather conservative and recommend physiotherapy care as a first option before any cortisone. Ultimately it is up to you, and your GP can help you to make an informed decision.
  2. As mentioned, the cortisone will be administered under an Ultrasound. Therefore, before giving you the injection, the radiologist (doctor) will look to see if there is any inflammation and/or reason for your pain in that particular area. If the radiologist cannot see a reason for your pain when looking at the ultrasound, they will not administer the cortisone.

Post by Rhiannon Barnard