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Steroid Joint Injections

Instant & Long Term Relief From Joint Pain

Steroid joint injections, also referred to as "cortisone shots" or intra-articular steroid injections", are a standard treatment for joint pain. Steroid joint injections can speed up the recovery from sport injuries, ligament strains/tears, cartilage damage, inflammatory disorders, and arthritis flare-ups. The treatment can reduce joint stiffness and help people return to the activities they love, before needing more invasive options such as surgery.

Facts and Information About Steroid Joint Injections

A steroid joint injection is a non-surgical treatment that can temporarily (or permanently) relieve pain in a swollen joint. This procedure has two uses:

  1. As a diagnostic test to see if the pain is coming from a particular joint
  2. As a treatment that reduces inflammation, swelling, and stiffness in the joint

Steroid joint injections help treat:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Adult and childhood rheumatoid arthritis
  • Gout
  • Psoriatic arthritis
  • Ligament and cartilage injuries

What is a Steroid Joint Injection

A steroid joint injection usually includes a steroid (such as methylprednisolone) and a local anesthetic (such as lidocaine). The two medications are mixed and are injected together into the painful joint.

The steroid is the primary medication. It works by reducing joint inflammation. However, it starts to work slowly, taking several days to reach full effect. To offer instant pain relief, the local anesthetic is used to numb the joint pain rapidly. It starts to work within 15-30 minutes.

Steroid injections are made in the following areas:

  • Facet joints (small joints in the spine)
  • Shoulder, elbow, wrist, and hand joints
  • Knee, ankle, and foot joints
  • Hip joints
  • Sacroiliac joints (in the pelvic area)
  • Coccyx (tailbone)

How is "Joint Injection" different from "Joint Aspiration"?

While a joint injection places medication into a painful joint, a joint aspiration does just the opposite. During a joint aspiration, a needle is used to remove fluid from a swollen joint in order to relieve pressure and pain.

Aspiration may be necessary before a joint injection, in order to perform laboratory testing on the joint fluid. It can tell your doctor if there is an infection, gout, or other painful conditions that require further treatment.

How is a Steroid Joint Injection Done

A steroid joint injection is performed on an outpatient basis. The skin over the painful joint is thoroughly cleaned and a local anesthetic is used to numb the area. Fluoroscopy (X-ray) or ultrasound (US) guides your pain specialist in finding the joint and ensures that the needle goes to the desired location. A joint injection usually takes around 5 minutes. After being monitored for a short time, you can leave the office. Soreness around the injection site may be relieved by using ice and taking mild analgesics like Tylenol.

What are the Expected Results

While some people enjoy weeks to months of pain relief after a steroid injection, others may be pain-free for shorter periods. Some people remain pain-free after only one injection. The response varies from person to person and depends on the underlying problem (injury, arthritis, etc.).

How Often is a Steroid Joint Injection Done

Steroid injections may be repeated 3 to 4 times over one year, with approximately 6 weeks between injections.

Is There a Longer Lasting Treatment

Nerve Blocks, followed by Radiofreqency Neurolysis (RFN) are longer-lasting treatments for people who find joint injections helpful. RFN provides an average of 6 to 12 months of pain relief.

Viscosupplement injections and Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections offer long term relief that may last for up to six months. They may take 4 to 6 weeks to reach full effect.


The following pain conditions are treated with steroid joint injections. Click on the options below.

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