Cortisone shots are often used to treat orthopedic ailments. Usually they provide a good result. Doctors advise not to have too many cortisone injections. Sometimes you may hear, for example, that you should have three shots per year. So, how often can you get cortisone shots? How many is too many?
How do cortisone shots work?
First, some words about cortisone shots. These corticosteroid drugs are used for treating several common orthopedic conditions, such as:
- bursitis (inflammation of bursa, a fluid-filled sac or sac-like cavity, which counters friction at a joint);
- tendonitis (an inflammation/irritation of a tendon);
- trigger finger (when a finger gets stuck in a bent position);
- carpal tunnel syndrome (numbness, tingling, and other discomfort due to pressure on the median nerve located in the wrist);
- tennis elbow (swelling of the tendons causing pain in the elbow and arm; some physicians believe that the use of cortisone is ineffective for treating tennis elbow);
- knee arthritis (formation of bone spurs or excess fluids in the knee).
These injections work by reducing the level of inflammation in the tissues. By reducing inflammation, the pain also ceases and a patient feels relieved.
How effective are injections with cortisone?
Researches show that cortisone shots are generally effective. However, cortisone does not treat all orthopedic problems and it is more effective for some conditions than for others. For instance, it works better for conditions that cause severe swelling and acute inflammation than for those that cause prolonged and unpleasant discomfort.
Cortisone is often used to treat sports injuries. This drug gives the maximum effect when it is properly used. First of all, it cannot be considered the only medicine to be used: this is part of the overall curative program, usually including rest, rehabilitation and preventive exercises. Cortisone relieves pain in injured joints, inflammation and swelling, but its abuse is dangerous.
The reason is that overdose leads to direct damage to articular cartilage or joint surface. This is not surprising. Hormones are similar to snake venom: they treat in small doses, but in large doses they can cause significant harm. In sports, there is a rule (taken from medicine). According to this rule, you cannot inject cortisone in the same joint more than three times a year. In addition, you need to know how to properly do the injection.
Beginners usually inject a cortisone shot directly to the place that hurts and end up damaging the tendon. Meanwhile, a sports doctor never injects cortisone directly into the inflamed tendon. He makes a shot only in the surrounding “bag”. Such treatment is carried out in the case of tendinitis of the shoulder joints, bursitis of the elbows and hip joints. Such injections can be carried out only by qualified primary-care doctors or nurse practitioners.
Recommended frequency of injections
There is no blanket rule that gives the clear number of cortisone shots. But there are some problems with injections into the same part of the body. If 1-2 shots in one site do not help over a long period of time, most likely further injections will not help.
Repeated frequent injections are not recommended. However, if, for example, in case of knee arthritis an injection helps every six months, the number of shots is not significant. On the other hand, if a person suffers from a shoulder tendinitis, but his shoulder is healthy in general, the quantity of shots should be limited to prevent damage to other tissues.
The bottom line on cortisone shots frequency
There is no clear rule that would determine the maximum or minimum number of cortisone shots. The important thing is that, before using cortisone injections, you need to consult a doctor. Only a qualified physician can determine if cortisone injections are suitable for the treatment of your disease. You should realize that the injection itself is not a panacea. Cortisone is only part of a complex treatment process involving the use of other drugs, physiotherapy, special preventive exercises and other means of treatment that have been determined by the attending physician.
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