Cortisone injections are frequently used in the treatment of orthopedic problems. Some people are wary of cortisone injections because they have heard that this medication can lead to damage of normal cartilage, ligaments and tendons. Is this true? Does cortisone cause joint damage?
There is some truth to this statement, and cortisone should be used sparingly, especially in young, healthy joints.
- Young, Healthy Patients
When someone has a normal, healthy joint, I use cortisone sparingly. In these settings, I will almost always try treatments to minimize inflammation without injecting cortisone. If these efforts fail, cortisone, in minimal doses, may be a reasonable treatment to consider.
- People with Damaged Joints
I have much less concern about potential of joint damage in people who have severely damaged joints. For example, people with severe knee arthritis should not worry as much about possible cortisone damage to joints when the arthritis has already severely worn away the normal joint.
Some doctors use a specified number of cortisone injections they will offer in a given year. I prefer to use judgment. Cortisone also has other side-effects that should be considered when deciding if an injection is appropriate.