The Benefits of Cortisone Shots

I was recently diagnosed with bursitis in my hip, a painful inflammation to the bursa sac, and my doctor recommended that I receive a cortisone shot. I had heard many times of athletes getting cortisone injections to quell whatever pains they had in their shoulders, ankles, or knees, but until I needed one I did not know all that much about the drug. I found that although the human body produces cortisone on its own in the adrenal gland, a small gland located on the top of the kidney, the effects are not long lasting. Your body releases cortisone along with adrenaline in reaction to stress. However, the synthetically produced cortisone that I will be injected with has much more enduring results, and can be sent right to the source of the problem rather than have to be absorbed from the bloodstream.

Cortisone is a steroid, an anti-inflammatory medication that is used to decrease swelling in an area. Once the cortisone has taken the swelling down, the pain that has been caused because of the inflammation dies down because the area has been made normal again. Cortisone shots can be directed into a very specific area, and they usually start to show results in a few days, with the effects often lasting for weeks. The cortisone shot that I will have will not be actual cortisone, but a much longer acting semi-artificial derivative of cortisone. Some of these are Kenalog, Celestone, and DepoMedol.

There are a variety of reasons your doctor may desire to treat you with cortisone; tennis elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis, and bursitis are some common maladies that cortisone can usually rectify. The actual cortisone injection can sometimes be painful, but often your doctor will include some numbing type of medication along with the cortisone shot to keep the pain to a minimum. Some of the side effects of a cortisone dose include a potential whitening of the skin where the shot was given and something called a cortisone flare. This is caused by the cortisone crystallizing, but icing the area can relief much of the irritation. Hands and feet are two of the more sensitive spots that one can have shot with cortisone. Infections from cortisone shots are what a doctor worries about, especially if the shot is given directly into a joint. My own doctor warned me quite extensively about the risk of an infection, but also reassured me by saying that the cortisone injection techniques today are quite refined. Allergic reactions to cortisone do not occur, since it is a naturally occurring substance in the body. If there is a reaction, it will be to the numbing agents that are included with the cortisone shot.

Many doctors will limit the amount of cortisone injections they will give a patient, since studies on animals have shown that cortisone can weaken tendons and make cartilage softer. If an area that can benefit from cortisone is already severely arthritic, the cortisone can do no more harm and often can help the patient be somewhat pain-free for a period of time. However, your doctor will advise against repeated cortisone shots if, as in my case, the region surrounding the problem area is healthy.

Addison’s disease is the name for the absence of cortisone in the body; it is fatal if left untreated. Cortisone shots are of three varieties-articular injections, trigger point injections, and epidural injections. Articular, or joint injections, are cortisone shots given to a knee, shoulder, ankle, and the small joints in your hands and feet. These cortisone injections can be repeated in the next few weeks until the area has healed. I will receive a trigger point cortisone injection; these are done to the tendon region or bursa in the inflamed area and are also followed up by booster shots later on. The epidural cortisone shots are given to the spine and neck and are administered to relieve a plethora of back and neck problems such as sciatica, spinal stenosis, arthritis, and degenerative discs in the back.

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