Shoulder pain is a common complaint. The lifetime prevalence of shoulder pain from any cause is as high as 70% by some estimates. A cortisone injection in the shoulder is one solution for temporary relief and to give the joint time to heal from an injury. Cortisone injections are quick, easy, and safe for most patients.

About Cortisone and Steroid Shots

A cortisone shot and a steroid shot, or injection, refer to the same treatment. Cortisone is a type of corticosteroid. It is very similar to a natural compound in the body called cortisol, which reduces inflammation.

Cortisone mimics cortisol and reduces inflammation and swelling, which, in turn, reduces pain. A shot of cortisone also improves mobility in a joint. Doctors use injections to administer cortisone right to the source of shoulder pain.

Shoulder Conditions That Benefit From a Cortisone Shot

A cortisone shot treats pain and swelling caused by several different shoulder conditions:

  • Arthritis. With a cortisone injection, shoulder arthritis pain can be minimized. The shot also improves mobility in the joint. Arthritis, especially osteoarthritis, is one of the most common reasons to use a steroid shot.
  • Frozen Shoulder. A cortisone injection for frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, improves mobility and reduces pain while the condition heals.
  • Osteolysis of the Distal Clavicle. This condition’s soreness and limited shoulder mobility are usually the results of a traumatic injury or repetitive motion, often from lifting weights. A shot of cortisone provides immediate relief as the injury heals.
  • Bursitis. Bursitis refers to inflammation in the bursa, fluid-filled sacs found in the joints. The condition is usually due to repetitive motion and commonly occurs in the shoulder.
  • Rotator Cuff Impingement. Several things can cause this condition, in which a poor alignment in the joint results in inflammation and pain. A steroid injection is a standard non-surgical treatment option.
  • Tendinitis. Closely related to impingement, tendinitis refers to damage to the tendons in the shoulder that causes pain and swelling.

Cortisone injections are appropriate for many causes of shoulder pain. Doctors typically use them after more conservative treatments — like pain medications and rest — fail to provide relief and before considering surgery.

What to Expect When Getting a Cortisone Injection

Getting a cortisone shot is a simple outpatient procedure. Your doctor will numb the area with a local anesthetic or use an injection with the anesthetic already in it. They might use imaging to guide the shot to the correct location.

Cortisone acts quickly, but you can expect a slight increase in pain and swelling right away. Once this subsides, you should get relief from the injury or arthritis within a few days at most.

How Soon Can I Exercise After a Cortisone Injection in the Shoulder?

After putting up with shoulder pain for so long, it is understandable that you would want to dive back into your regular activities after treatment. But it is important to follow your doctor’s instructions for the best outcome. They will tell you how long to rest your shoulder and when you can get active again.

You might be able to return to some activity within 24 hours, but avoid lifting anything too heavy for up to two weeks. Increase activity slowly and stop if it irritates your shoulder.

How Long Does a Cortisone Shot Last?

The effects of a cortisone injection for shoulder pain can last anywhere from several weeks to several months. People often respond differently to the injection. In general, the effects wear off sooner for more severe injuries and advanced arthritis.

Are There Any Risks of Using a Cortisone Injection for Shoulder Injuries?

Cortisone injections are overwhelmingly safe and low-risk for most people. Doctors have used them for years to manage pain and swelling in patients. There are, however, a few risks and potential side effects to consider before using this treatment:

  • Infection at the injection site
  • Blood sugar elevation
  • Increased risk for systemic infection in immunocompromised patients
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Osteoporosis
  • Fluid retention
  • Changes in mood

Another potential risk is most often associated with multiple injections – your doctor will not allow you to have steroid shots too frequently, because this can lead to deterioration in the joint.

If shoulder pain continues to trouble you and restricts your movement and activities, reach out to the joint specialists at EmergeOrtho. Request an appointment to discuss an evaluation and possible treatments.

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