A common question I get asked at the clinic is whether people should get a steroid injection to help with pain in the joints. The answer is not always the same for each person, and it’s worth noting that this blog only refers to corticosteroid injections for joint pain, and osteopaths do not typically administer this type of treatment.
Learn more about steroid injections, including the potential risks and the alternative treatment options for sufferers of joint pain.
How Do Steroid Injections Work?
Steroid injections, or corticosteroid intra-articular injections (also referred to as cortisone), are commonly given at GP surgeries to patients complaining of chronic pain. They are synthetic hormones that reduce inflammation and this is particularly useful when inflammation is causing pain in a joint. Steroid injections are also used to treat wider inflammatory problems in the body. These problems include allergic reactions, rheumatoid arthritis, and asthma.
The injection is administered directly into the joint. They are sometimes guided by ultrasound for accuracy and can take a couple of hours to take effect.
The Benefits Of Steroid Injections
Steroid injections can be good for short to medium-term pain relief for osteoarthritis, tendinopathy, and bursitis. It is essential that the steroid injection is followed by a rehab plan from an osteopath, physiotherapist or healthcare advisors qualified in movement rehabilitation. Steroid injections also are cheap, quick and easily accessible to most people.
When specifically referring to tendinopathy, research has shown there is a short-term benefit to using steroid injections. This tends to be worse for the tendon in the medium and long-term.
The Downside To Steroid Injections
A concern with steroid injections is that they don’t always work. For every study that suggests there is a benefit, there is another that shows little benefits, particularly over the medium and long terms.
New research has hinted at adverse long-term effects of cortisone injections. Research has shown a similar reduction in pain in the short term (four weeks) with treatment such as osteopathy, but the long-term (up to a year post-injection). Health of the tendon is worse than the effects of manual therapy.
The main problem is that the steroid encourages early degeneration of the tissue. Steroid injections can also come with a number of side effects, including:
- Shrinkage of the area that has been injected
- post-injection flare-ups
- Raising in blood sugar (if diabetic)
- Weight gain
- Weakened tendons
Avascular necrosis can also occur, which is the total destruction of a joint through the loss of blood supply. This will only occur after a long period of time but should serve to show what can happen with repeated use.
So Are Steroid Injections A Bad Idea?
The most important part of treating problems that may be helped through cortisone injection is movement. It seems that the evidence points to manual therapy, such as osteopathy, as the most effective long-term treatment option.
Want to know more about how osteopathy can help relieve your joint pain? Speak to us today to find out how you can approach your pain management and avoid steroid injections.
CALL: 0161 209 3980