There are many causes of knee pain and some arise from accidental injuries, sports injuries or health conditions such as osteoarthritis. While many people will reach for over-the-counter pain relief, such as paracetamol and ibuprofen tablets, sometimes these painkillers are not enough to ease your pain to a comfortable or manageable level.
If your knee pain is caused by inflammation it could be an inflamed tendon that is causing the pain. This is a condition called tendonitis and it can seriously restrict the movement of the knee joint. If other treatments such as painkillers or ultrasound don’t work to reduce pain, then a steroid injection may be recommended.
Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis and while it can affect any of your joints, it is most noticeable when it causes pain and stiffness in your knees. A lot of people with osteoarthritis will avoid any movement that can cause them pain, but when it affects the knees it can reduce mobility and muscle strength because people will avoid standing or walking as much as possible.
While osteoarthritis is a long term condition, it may not worsen over time if you get the most effective treatment for it. This can include having steroid injections in the knee joint to help reduce pain and improve the mobility of the joint.
Steroid injections for knee pain
If you have sustained a knee injury that is causing you pain and doesn’t seem to be easing with time, it is worth seeing your doctor to have your knee examined. Your GP may refer you to a specialist rheumatologist for further investigation and appropriate treatment especially when over-the-counter painkillers are not helping.
After a thorough examination and checking your medical record, we may recommend you have a steroid injection in your knee. Depending on how severe your knee pain or joint condition, you may be given a local anesthetic before the steroid injection is administered.
The great thing is that steroid injections can work quickly to relieve your knee pain and the pain-relieving effects can last for many weeks or even months at a time. In most cases of knee injuries, one injection is usually enough to allow your injury to heal so you may not need any follow up treatment.
For more long-term health conditions such as osteoarthritis, you may need to have more steroid injections, but it is not recommended to have more than two or three injections per year.
Who can have steroid injections in the knee?
Steroid injections for pain relief in the knee are usually suitable for most people, however, you must inform your doctor if any of the following situations apply to you:
- You are pregnant, breastfeeding or trying to get pregnant
- You have any other health conditions such as diabetes, epilepsy or high blood pressure
- You have liver, heart or kidney problems
- You are taking any other prescription medications
In the above-listed cases, you may not suitable for steroid injections. However, you may still be recommended for steroid injections if your doctor believes the benefits will outweigh any risks.
Do not hesitate to get in touch with our team if you need any help or advice about steroid injections for pain relief. We are here to help!
Steroid injection knee side effects
Steroid injections in the knee are generally considered safe and carry a low risk of complications. However, there are some potential side effects that you should be aware of. If you are concerned about any side effects, you can discuss this with Dr Bhadauria during your consultation.
Cortisone injections may cause side effects in some patients, mainly when used repeatedly. Most side effects are extremely mild and will go away with time. But if you experience any of the following side effects, you should inform Dr Bhaudauria immediately.
Minor side effects can include:
- Cortisone flare reaction: Sometimes, patients can feel a little soreness or discomfort at the injection site for the first 24 to 48 hours after the injection. Applying an ice pack to the injection site can ease the discomfort.
- Elevated blood sugar levels: Cortisone injections can cause blood glucose levels to rise, so if you have diabetes, you should discuss this with Us before receiving your knee injection.
- Breakdown of fatty tissue: For those receiving high doses of cortisone, this can lead to a thinning of the fat under the skin, causing the skin to dimple at the injection site.
- Skin pigment changes: You may notice a slight skin pigmentation (colour) loss around the injection site, which can be permanent.
Steroid injection in knee, does it hurt?
When you receive a steroid injection in your knee, the procedure only takes a few minutes, and you will be made to feel relaxed and at ease in the clinic. You will be seated in a comfortable treatment chair, and Dr Bhaudauria will position your knee to make the injection as comfortable as possible.
The injection site will be cleaned and numbed with a local anaesthetic before inserting the needle into your joint. The process may cause you some minor discomfort, but it is rare for a patient to experience pain from administering a joint injection.
Depending on the severity of your condition, you may have a small amount of joint fluid removed using a syringe before your knee joint injection to reduce pressure. The steroid joint injection will be administered through the same puncture site to reduce discomfort.
Following your treatment, the injection site will be covered with a small dressing, and you will be given plenty of aftercare advice. You will also have time to ask questions about the treatment and what to expect.
How long do steroid injections in the knee last?
Steroid knee injections start to work rapidly and can give long-lasting pain relief, allowing you to get back to your everyday life with minimal knee pain. The pain-relieving effects of the steroid injection may last several weeks to a few months, but this will depend on the severity of your condition.
It is normal to wait three or four months between injections, but this will depend on whether your symptoms have returned and their severity. Many patients with low-level pain or those in the early stages of osteoarthritis in the knee can experience longer-lasting pain relief.
Article by Dr. Naveen Bhadauria