Understanding Cortisone Shots: What Are They and How Do They Work?


Cortisone shots are steroid injections which could help ease pain and swelling in a certain region of your body. They are most commonly administered into joints like your ankle, elbow, hip, knee, shoulder, spine or wrist. Even the small joints in your hands or feet may gain from cortisone shots.

The injections generally comprise of a corticosteroid medication and a local anesthetic. Generally, you could receive one at your primary care physician’s office. Because of potential side effects, the number of shots you could get in a year usually is limited.


Cortisone shots may be most helpful in treating inflammatory arthritis, like rheumatoid arthritis. They could also be part of treatment for other conditions, including:

  • Back pain
  • Bursitis
  • Gout
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Psoriatic arthritis
  • Reactive arthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Tendinitis

how do cortisone shots work


  • Possible side effects of cortisone shots increase with larger doses and frequent use. Side effects could include:
  • Cartilage damage
  • Death of nearby bone
  • Joint infection
  • Nerve damage
  • Momentary facial flushing
  • Momentary flare of pain and swelling in the joint
  • Momentary increase in blood sugar
  • Tendon weakening or rupture
  • Thinning of nearby bone (osteoporosis)
  • Thinning of skin and soft tissue around the injection area
  • Whitening or lightening of the skin around the injection area


There’s concern that frequent cortisone shots may damage the cartilage within a joint. So primary care physicians generally limit the number of cortisone shots into a joint. Generally, you should not get cortisone injections more usually than every 6 weeks and generally not more than 3 or 4 times a year.

what are cortisone shots


If you take blood thinners, you may require to stop taking them for several days before your cortisone shot to lower bleeding or bruising risk. Some food supplements have an anticoagulant effect as well. Ask your primary care physician what medications and supplements you should circumvent before your cortisone shot. Tell your primary care physician if you have had a temperature of 100.4 F (38 C) or greater in the previous 2 weeks.


During the cortisone shot

Your primary care physician may ask you to change into a gown. You will then be positioned so that your primary care physician could easily insert the syringe. The region around the injection region is cleaned. Your primary care physician may also apply an anesthetic spray to numb the region where the syringe will be inserted. In some cases, your primary care physician might use ultrasound or a type of X-ray known as fluoroscopy to watch the syringe’s progress inside your body so as to place it in the right spot.

You will likely feel some pressure when the syringe is inserted. Let your primary care physician know if you have a lot of discomfort. The medication is then released into the injection region. Generally, cortisone shots include a corticosteroid medication to ease pain and swelling over time and an anesthetic to offer immediate pain relief.

After the cortisone shot

Some people have inflammation and a feeling of warmth of the chest and face after a cortisone shot. If you have diabetes, a cortisone shot may momentarily increase your blood sugar levels.

After your cortisone shot, your primary care physician may ask that you:

  • Protect the injection region for a day or two. For example, if you received a cortisone shot in your shoulder, circumvent heavy lifting. If you received a cortisone shot in your knee, stay off your feet when you could.
  • Apply ice to the injection region as required to ease pain. Do not use heating pads.
  • Do not use a bathtub, hot tub or hot tub for a couple of days. It is OK to shower.
  • Watch for signs of infection, including increasing pain, soreness and inflammation which last more than 48 hours.


Results of cortisone shots generally depend on the reason for the treatment. Cortisone shots generally cause a momentary flare in pain and swelling for up to 48 hours after the injection. After that, your pain and swelling of the affected joint should decrease, and could last up to many months.

If you or anyone you know is suffering from orthopedics related problems, our expert providers at Specialty Care Clinics will take care of your health and help you recover.

Call 469-805-4561 to book an telehealth appointment for an at home check-up.

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