Are Cortisone Injections for Knee Pain Dangerous?

Cortisone Injections for Arthritic Knees

A new study suggests that judicious use of cortisone shots is as safe as any other different type of injection commonly used to treat arthritis of the knee.

Cortisone is a steroid hormone that is synthesized in the adrenal gland. Cortisone shots involve injecting corticosteroid medications containing cortisone into the knee or other impacted area. These shots do not directly relieve pain. Instead, they reduce inflammation, which can bring relief.

Cortisone shots are used to treat knee pain caused by:

  • Bursitis
  • Tendinitis
  • Arthritis
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis

The two most common types of knee arthritis injections are cortisone and hyaluronic acid shots.

Why do cortisone shots get a bad rap?

Cortisone injections have a bad reputation for treating arthritis pain because steroids have been shown to bring on cartilage damage that could cause the knee joint to deteriorate even further.

Hyaluronic acid is a component of a kind of shot that loosens joints that have been stiffened by arthritis. Hyaluronic acid injections act more like a lubricating gel and they do not damage cartilage.

The research showed, however, that cortisone injections did not seem to cause deterioration faster than shots containing hyaluronic acid, if used judiciously.

Senior researcher Dr. David Felson, a professor of medicine and epidemiology at Boston University School of Medicine, told HeatlhDay that knee replacement rates were, if anything, lower in the group that got the cortisone injections.

"What we know from the study that we can trust is that a few cortisone injections won't really cause much trouble," Felson said.

The study included 800 people suffering from arthritis of the knee. Eighty percent received cortisone injections for their knee pain, while the remaining 20 percent received shots of hyaluronic acid.

Research showed that people who received steroid shots had no greater loss of cartilage than subjects treated with shots of hyaluronic acid, even after seven years of follow up. One in four who received cortisone injections, in fact, were less likely to need a total knee replacement than people who got shots of hyaluronic acid.

Non-surgical knee treatments

The findings of the study support the treatment methods doctors already advise for their patients. These methods include getting cortisone shots to relieve chronic knee pain as part of a treatment plan. Even though the study shows there is nothing to be afraid of in terms of long-term cartilage damage from these injections, it still makes sense to consult with an experienced knee doctor who knows how to properly diagnose and treat your knee injury.

Are hyaluronic acid or cortisone shots the right treatment option for you? Our fellowship-trained and board-certified doctors will help you make the right decision. We have years of experience diagnosing and treating the complexities of chronic knee pain. In fact, our orthopedic surgeons at Island Musculoskeletal Care have over 100 years of combined medical experience.

Schedule an appointment with us today. It’s easy. Contact us online or call 1-888-BONE-DOC (266-3362). Our doctors can often see you on the same day at one of our seven offices located in the greater New York City and Long Island area.

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