Pain From a Cortisone Shot

Do Cortisone Injections Hurt?

cortisone pain
Do cortisone shots hurt?. Kay Blaschke / Getty Images

Cortisone is a commonly used medication to treat a variety of orthopedic conditions.  The medication is a powerful anti-inflammatory treatment that can be administered directly to a site of inflammation in the body.  Therefore, cortisone injections are commonly used in the treatment of conditions such as tendonitis, bursitis, and arthritis.

Pain From a Steroid Shot

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.

Pain After a Shot

While pain can occur during a shot, there can also be discomfort after the shot that causes concern from many patients.  One of the most common side-effects of a cortisone injection is called a cortisone flare.  A cortisone flare reaction occurs in the hours and days after receiving a cortisone shot, and can lead to increased pain and discomfort.  While the pain often subsides on its own, there are some effective treatments for a cortisone flare that can help to reduce the painful symptoms more quickly.

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