November 15, 2022

What You Should Know About Corticosteroid Shots

What are Corticosteroid Shots?

In many different disciplines across the medical board, a very common term you may hear as an option for pain management treatment is corticosteroid shots. These are also called cortisone shots, and are not to be confused with anabolic steroids, which you may hear when athletes get caught using illegal substances to bulk up. Instead, corticosteroid shots are a man-made medicine that is developed based off of cortisol, which is the primary hormone in your body’s natural defense to swelling and inflammation. 

The most common corticosteroids on the market for medical use are Kenalog® (tramcinolone), Depo-Medrol® (methylprednisolone), and Celestone® (Betamethasone) - it’s likely that your doctor will be using one of these three variants should you be prescribed a corticosteroid shot.

These anti-inflammatory shots are used to treat a variety of conditions, such as:

As you can see, corticosteroids are particularly applicable when it comes to spinal conditions and pain management in the back - something that miiSpine specializes in. And, as a non-surgical option that can be used in tandem with other forms of treatment to mitigate pain while back issues are addressed, they're a helpful tool to utilize in the journey to a back pain-free life.

How are Corticosteroid Shots Given?

Corticosteroid shots, as you may guess from the name, are injections given via a syringe, but in different areas than a run-of-the-mill vaccination shot. Corticosteroid shots can be given via:

  • A joint (intra-articular) such as the hip, knee, or shoulder, hands, or feet
  • A muscle (intramuscular)
  • The spine (epidural)
  • The blood (an intravenous injection)

Regarding spinal epidural corticosteroid shots, a syringe is inserted into the epidural space of the spine, which lies in the area of the spine containing fat and small blood vessels, right between the dura mater (a membrane) and the vertebral wall. 

The shot can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days to start working, and usually wears off within a few weeks to 6 months. This is not a method of curing the pain, only managing it while other treatments are figured out, which is why it’s important to explore other methods of treatment along with corticosteroid shots!

Are There Any Cons to Corticosteroid Shots?

There have been some reported side effects of corticosteroid shots, but most of them are location-specific and vary depending on where you get the injection. 

Intravenous Injections: You may experience increased appetite, mood changes, and difficulty sleeping.

Epidural Injections: You may experience a very painful headache which is only relieved by lying down - this should go away on its own or with over-the-counter pain medications.

Intra-articular and Intramuscular (sometimes spinal): The list of potential side effects for these combined areas is a bit more extensive, and can range from mild symptoms, such as:

  • Pain and discomfort for a few days
  • Temporary bruising or a collection of blood under the skin
  • Flushing of the face for a few hours
  • Fat loss at the injection site (dimples in the skin)
  • Paling of the skin at the injection site

To more serious symptoms that you should seek professional medical help for, including:

  • Infection
  • Blood sugar level increase (for those with diabetes, this needs to be monitored closely)
  • Blood pressure increase (for those with high blood pressure, this needs to be monitored closely)

Even though the medicine mimics a naturally-occurring hormone, there can be too much given within a period of time. Most physicians will recommend that corticosteroid shots are given no more than 3-4 times in a year - especially not to the same site. There have been studies that overuse of corticosteroids can lead to cartilage damage and nearby necrosis, which is why this limit exists. If used in conjunction with other treatments, there shouldn’t be a need for constant corticosteroid injections.

At miiSpine, we pride ourselves on a comprehensive approach to back pain and pain management practices. Our goal is to get you off of corticosteroid shots as soon as possible, and with our innovative methods and techniques, we’ve seen success on many fronts with relief!

If you are experiencing back or neck pain or some other medical condition, you may benefit from finding an innovative spine physician. Dr. Venu Vemuri at miiSpine is an award-winning doctor focused on providing a comprehensive treatment approach towards all types of back conditions and pain. For additional information or to schedule an appointment, call the Louisville, Kentucky miiSpine office today at: (502) 242-6370.

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