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Are cortisone injections bad for you?

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Updated February 11, 2011

Cortisone injections are among the most commonly used treatments in orthopedics. Cortisone is a powerful anti-inflammatory medication that reduces the inflammatory response of many painful conditions. Cortisone is effective for different types of arthritis, tendinitis, bursitis, among other conditions.

Some patients are concerned about the use of cortisone in their body. The common concerns that I often hear include:

  • Cortisone is unnatural.
  • Cortisone can cause joint and cartilage damage.
  • Cortisone can lead to tendon rupture.
  • Cortisone shots are painful.
Some of these concerns are true, false and unclear.

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Background

Cortisone can be used for a variety of orthopedic problems. The medication works by decreasing inflammation. Anti-inflammatory medications can be taken orally, but this distributes the medication in very small doses throughout the entire body.

A cortisone injection, on the other hand, places a large, powerful dose directly at the location of the inflammation. Therefore, the medication acts very powerfully against the problem. Furthermore, systemic side-effects of a local cortisone injection are uncommon.

Because of the strong, quick effects of a cortisone injection, they are often recommended for a variety of orthopedic problems. Among the most frequently treated conditions using cortisone injections are:

Cortisone injections are also often used in lumbar and cervical spine problems. In these situations, patients may receive an epidural cortisone injection.
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