What is cortisone used for?
Cortisone is a type of medicine called a corticosteroid, or steroid. It is used to treat symptoms caused by inflammation, such as swelling and irritation. Arthritis is an example of a condition caused by inflammation.
A cortisone shot is often used to relieve pain and reduce the swelling of a joint, tendon, or bursa. (A bursa is a fluid-filled sac that acts as a cushion between tendons, bones, and skin.) These problems are common in knee, elbow, and shoulder joints. Reducing the swelling helps relieve pain and can speed up recovery from an injury.
The cortisone is usually mixed with a local anesthetic and then injected into the painful area. The anesthetic helps with the discomfort.
A shot of cortisone may also be given to reduce inflammation over the whole body (for example, if you have an allergic reaction or a flare-up of rheumatoid arthritis).
How does it work?
Cortisone blocks the chemicals that your body makes that cause swelling and irritation. It also changes the way your immune system works.
What happens after I get the shot?
When the anesthetic wears off, the area where the shot was given may be quite sore. It may help to put an ice pack, gel pack, or package of frozen vegetables, wrapped in a cloth on the area every 3 to 4 hours, for up to 20 minutes at a time. You can also take an anti-inflammatory medicine such as ibuprofen. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) may cause stomach bleeding and other problems. These risks increase with age. Read the label and take as directed. Unless recommended by your healthcare provider, do not take for more than 10 days.
The cortisone will start to reduce the inflammation and relieve pain within 2 to 3 days. In some cases, the cortisone will permanently relieve your symptoms. In other cases, the pain relief lasts from a couple of weeks to a year or more.
How well the shot works depends on many things, including the amount of medicine given, the cause of the problem, and if the shot is given in exactly the right area.
Chronic (long-term) inflammation can be caused by overuse. If you continue to overuse the injured area, the inflammation may come back. In this case, the cortisone shot will probably not help that much.
What else do I need to know about this medicine?
Many medicines have side effects. A side effect is a symptom or problem that is caused by the medicine. Ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist what side effects the medicine may cause and what you should do if you have side effects.
Cortisone can temporarily weaken the immune system. While receiving these shots, you should not get certain vaccines. Also, avoid contact with anyone who has chickenpox or measles, especially if you have never had these diseases. Your immune system may not be strong enough to fight off the infection while you are taking cortisone.
If you have any questions, ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist for more information. Be sure to keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.