Steroid injections can produce dramatic relief from symptoms. They can produce a rapid relief from swelling, pain and stiffness for an inflamed single joint or tendon. The steroid injection is injected into the inflamed joint, around tendons or ligaments. If there is fluid in the joint this may be removed prior to the injection.
Relief from symptoms should begin within 24 hours and may last for weeks, months or longer. It is however possible that no relief is obtained.
It is recommended that you rest the injected joint as much as possible for the 24 to 48 hours following the injection as this may increase the benefit. This is especially important if a weight-bearing joint, such as the knee or ankle has been injected.
The number of injections into a particular joint is limited. The frequency should be no more than every six months and preferably no more than 3 times into any one joint. This is because of the risk of introducing infection and the possibility of causing excess softening of the bone.
Joints that can be injected
Soft tissue injections
Are there any side effects?
Side effects are unlikely. Very occasionally there may be a post injection flare, a slight increase in the joint pain for the 24 hours following the injection. This will usually settle by itself over the next couple of days, an increase in the pain relief will help.
Very rarely (1 in 15000) it is possible to introduce infection into the joint, despite the best measures to avoid this. Should the joint become more painful and hot or throbbing then you would be advised to seek prompt medical assistance.
Steroid injections are placed specifically into the site intended, however, despite best efforts to prevent they can rarely leak into the surrounding tissue and if this occurs they can cause some depigmentation of the skin (leaving a paler patch) or sometimes a dimple in the skin due to atrophy (dying off) of the subcutaneous fat.
Diabetics may notice more sugar in their urine up to 3 weeks after the injection of a large joint e.g knee or shoulder. This should require no alteration to the diabetic treatment.
Related:Joint And Soft Tissue Injections (pdf)