A Rheumatologist or chronic pain specialist, recommending steroid joint injections is pretty routine. Steroids are one of our best treatment options for alleviating acute or chronic pain. Moreover, steroids are generally considered safe when used under the direction of a trained physician.
As a private rheumatologist in North London, I recommend steroid joint injections to those of my patients for whom it is appropriate. However, injections are not right for every patient in every case. Therefore, I strive to educate my patients about steroid use so that they can make intelligent decisions.
Here are four things to know before you make a decision about injections:
1. Why We Recommend Them
First and foremost is why private rheumatologists like me recommend steroid joint injections: steroids reduce inflammation. It is inflammation that causes arthritis pain. It is inflammation that causes pain when tendons and ligaments are damaged. So we reduce pain by reducing inflammation.
It is extremely important to understand that steroid injections do not treat the underlying cause of joint pain. They only alleviate the symptoms. Therefore, we generally recommend steroids in concert with other treatments, like physiotherapy for example.
2. Steroids Are Safe, But…
Steroids are used safely around the world; they are considered generally safe. However, we never want to assume. This is why it is important that patients inform their doctors if they:
- have ever had an allergic reaction to a medication
- are currently dealing with any type of infection
- are currently pregnant or expecting to become pregnant
- have recently been in contact with someone suffering from chickenpox, measles, or shingles
- have ever experienced depression or manic depression
- have recently had, or are expected to have, vaccinations.
Any of these things could reduce the effectiveness of steroids or potentially interfere with them. On rare occasions, significant side effects can occur. Be sure to tell your doctor of any of these conditions before undergoing steroid joint injections.
3. What to Expect from the Injection
Unfortunately, injections involve needles. This might take steroid injections off the table for you. If you have an aversion to needles to the degree that you don’t think you can tolerate an injection, there are other options for managing your pain. This is something that you should talk to your doctor about.
Note that, while very minor, there is always a risk of infection with every injection. In all my London offices, we go above and beyond to maintain sterile equipment and exam rooms. We meet or exceed all government guidelines for patient health and safety. Nonetheless, there is always the remote chance that the injection site will become infected. You have to understand that risk before getting the injection.
4. What to Expect after the Injection
If your doctor uses a local anaesthetic, you may feel very little pain at the time of the injection. However, you should begin feeling pain after the anaesthetic wears off. Your joint may be sore for anywhere from a few hours to a few days after the injection.
The relief from steroid injections can last from a few weeks to several months. Be aware that you might not experience 100% pain relief. Your relief might only be partial. You can discuss that with your doctor during a follow-up examination.
Steroid joint injections are one option for managing chronic arthritis pain. If you would like to know more about this procedure, please contact my office and make an appointment to see me. I will be happy to do a thorough examination and discuss all of the options – including steroid injections – with you.