Do Cortisone Injections Really Help Relieve Arthritis Pain?

Cortisone injections are steroid shots commonly used to relieve pain from arthritis, or joint inflammation. According to CreakyJoints, the injections contain an anesthetic and a steroid known as cortisone or corticosteroid. The body naturally produces the hormone cortisone through the adrenal glands, which are located on top of the kidneys. Typically, corticosteroids are given orally in the form of pills, or as injections into the affected joints, such as the hip, knee, or wrist, for arthritis.

How often a person gets a cortisone shot will vary from person to person. Dr. Michael Star told Cleveland Clinic that cortisone injections are offered about every three to four months for one joint as long as the shots benefit the patient. A limit of three to six injections per year is what some doctors allow due to possible side effects, but the limit and side effects vary depending on the person. For example, cortisone injections may affect a person's blood sugar, which can be a problem for people with diabetes.

How cortisone injections work for arthritis pain

Two of the most common symptoms of arthritis are pain and stiffness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Nearly 59 million people in the United States are affected by arthritis, with symptoms developing slowly over time or all of a sudden. Cortisone shots are offered to arthritis patients because they really do help in aid in relieving pain.

Healthline reports that cortisone injections target the molecules that provoke inflammation in the joints. Because arthritis causes inflammation, cortisone shots can actually improve how the joints function by reducing the number of molecules that stimulate the inflammation and pain. Cortisone shots provide relief for some patients for several months with effects showing up in as little as a few hours or days.

Like other treatments, there are risks involved with cortisone shots. According to WebMD, steroids can cause damage to cartilage, and over time, too many injections can cause further joint issues. While the shots are safe and work well, too much of a good thing can cause further deterioration of the joints. It's recommended that arthritis patients check with their doctor first as they know a patient's history best.