Cortisone Injections

What is cortisone?
Cortisone is a type of steroid that is produced naturally by a gland in your body called the adrenal gland.

Injectable cortisone is synthetically produced, but is a close derivative of your body's own product.  The most significant differences are that synthetic cortisone is not injected into the blood stream, but into a particular area of inflammation.  Also, the synthetic cortisone is designed to act more potently and for a longer period of time. 

How does the cortisone injection help?
Cortisone is a powerful anti-inflammatory medication.  By injecting the cortisone into a particular area of inflammation, very high concentrations of the medication can be given while keeping potential side effects to a minimum.  Cortisone injections usually work within a few days and the effects can last up to several weeks or months. 

What are some common reasons for a cortisone injection?
Many conditions where inflammation is an underlying problem are amenable to cortisone shots.  These include, but are certainly not limited to:

  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Neuromas
  • Capsulitis
  • Tendonitis

Are there side effects?
Yes, probably the most common side effect is a "cortisone flare," a condition where the injected cortisone crystallizes and can cause a brief period of pain worse than before the shot.  This usually lasts a day or two and is best treated by icing the injected area.  Another common side effect is whitening of the skin where the injection is given.  This is only a concern in people with darker skin and is not harmful, but patients should be aware of this.

Other side effects of cortisone injections, although rare, can include infection.  Because cortisone is a naturally occurring substance, true allergic reactions to the injected substance do not occur.  However, it is possible to be allergic to other aspects of the injection, most commonly the betadine used to sterilize the skin.