Could Injection Therapy Help You?
by the Fremont Orthopaedics Staff
Pain Relief and Improved Motion Through Steroid Injections
When people experience pain in a joint such as a knee, hip, ankle, shoulder, or elbow that develops over time, and is not related to a traumatic injury, the underlying cause may be a degenerative condition or inflammatory process. This sort of pain often indicates the development of osteoarthritis, tendonitis, or bursitis. Osteoarthritis results from degeneration, or “wearing down,” of the cartilage that protects the ends of bones where they form a joint. This process causes damage to the joint structures, typically resulting in pain, swelling, and stiffness. Repetitive use or motion may result in inflammatory conditions called tendonitis or bursitis. Tendonitis is irritation of the tendons, the fibrous tissue that attach muscles to bones. Bursitis occurs when small, fluid filled sacks that cushion the joints become inflamed. Many patients experience significant improvements in pain, swelling, and joint mobility after receiving a steroid injection.
How does an injection help with pain and inflammation?
The injection usually contains a mixture of two medications that are injected directly into the structures that are inflamed and painful. One is a local anesthetic (or “numbing medicine”) that offers immediate pain relief. The second is a corticosteroid (or “steroid”). Steroids are powerful anti-inflammatory medications that may offer long acting relief of pain and swelling. Bursitis, tendonitis, and some other forms of inflammation can resolve with injection therapy and rehabilitation. Chronic conditions, such as arthritis, are unlikely to be cured through injection therapy. However, many patients experience significant improvements in pain and stiffness while the steroid medication is active in their joint.
How long does the injection take to work and how long does it last?
Although patient results can vary, the numbing medication typically takes effect within 15 minutes and helps to relieve pain following the injection, while also confirming that the medications are in the desired locations. This numbing effect will gradually wear off over the next 6-12 hours. The steroid medication will take effect more slowly, starting to reduce inflammation over the next 2-3 days. Most patients experience the peak effect of the steroid within 4-7 days and continue to experience pain relief and improved mobility for 2-4 months or more, while the steroid medicine remains active. Tendonitis or bursitis may completely resolve following a single injection. Patients with chronic conditions such as osteoarthritis may opt to periodically repeat injections based on their individual progress and goals.
How do I know if I am a good candidate for injection therapy?
Our providers help patients decide if injection therapy may be a good option for them through a clinic visit that includes an examination, a thorough discussion, and often x-rays. Steroid injections are one component of your treatment plan. You and your provider may also discuss other treatment options such as physical therapy, bracing, or other medication options. Provider recommendations are tailored to each patient’s unique lifestyle and recovery goals.