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Do cortisone injections hurt?


Updated May 28, 2014

injection pain needle

Should an injection hurt?

Image © Nicholas Monu
Question: Do cortisone injections hurt?

Injections vary in the amount of discomfort they cause. Some factors that can affect the pain of the injection include:

  • Location of the injection
    Certain injections hurt, no matter what is done. Injections into the palm of the hand and sole of the foot are especially painful. Injections tend to hurt most when medication is given to a small space.

  • Size of the needle
    Larger needles cause more discomfort than smaller ones. Your doctor will select the size of the needle based on the problem being treated.

I'm worried about the pain!

If you're worried about the pain from an injection, let your doctor know. Ask if your doctor can try other techniques to alleviate the discomfort.

Some helpful techniques include:

    • Using a Smaller Needle
      The smaller the needle, the less discomfort. That said, it is not always appropriate to use the smallest needle. This is especially true if trying to remove fluid. For example, if fluid is being removed from a swollen knee, a larger needle will be used rather than if the knee is simply having medication injected.

    • Numbing the Skin
      Ask your doctor if your skin can be numbed. Topical applications (cold spray) can lightly anesthetize the skin. Another option is to numb the skin with a tiny needle, and then use a larger needle for the injection.

    • Going Slowly
      Many doctors offices are busy places, and some patients don't mind if their doctor moves efficiently. But if you are nervous, let your doctor know, so he or she knows to take a little extra time to explain what is happening and to move slowly. It can make a dramatic difference.

    • Relaxing
      This is the most difficult of all. But it is true -- patients who are able to relax their muscles usually have much less discomfort with injections. Take slow, deep breaths, and try to relax. Ask your doctor if you can lie down for the injection.
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