A steroid injection is a minimally invasive procedure that can temporarily relieve pain caused by an inflamed joint. The cause of joint pain (arthritis, injury, degeneration) is not well understood. The procedure has two purposes. First, it can be used as a diagnostic test to see if the pain is actually coming from the joint. Second, it can be used as a treatment to relieve inflammation and pain caused by various conditions.

What is a Steroid Joint Injection?

A steroid injection includes both a corticosteroid and an anesthetic numbing agent (lidocaine). The drugs are delivered to the painful joint, inside the joint capsule.

Corticosteroid injections can reduce inflammation and can be effective when delivered directly into the painful area. The pain relief can last from days to years, allowing your condition to improve with physical therapy and an exercise program.

Injections can be made in the following areas:

  • finger joints
  • shoulder, elbow, and hand
  • knee, ankle and foot

Who is a Candidate?

If you have pain stemming from joint inflammation, then you may benefit from a steroid injection. Steroid joint injections done using fluoroscopic (x-ray) guidance should NOT be performed on people who have an infection, are pregnant, or have bleeding problems. The injection may slightly elevate blood sugar levels in patients with diabetes. It may also temporarily elevate blood pressure or eye pressure for patients with glaucoma.

Steroids should not be injected when there is infection in the joint or area to be injected or anywhere else in the body. If a joint is already severely destroyed by arthritis, injections are not likely to give any benefit. If you have a potential bleeding problem or take blood-thinning medication, the steroid injections may cause bleeding at the site of the injection.

How long does it take to work?

A steroid injection starts to work immediately following the injection, and inflammation usually begins to subside within a few days. Depending on how quickly the inflammation subsides, the timing of pain relief can vary from a few days to a few weeks.

Most people who have a steroid shot, and find relief from the injection, will describe the gradual reduction in symptoms over a span of days to weeks. However, the amount of inflammation, the type of injectionadministered, and other factors can all affect the length of time it will take before you experience relief.


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