Home > Patients & Visitors > Health Library > Corticosteroids (Intra-Articular) for Osteoarthritis
Intra-articular corticosteroids or steroids are medicines
injected directly into the joint space of a painful, inflamed arthritic joint.
Steroids taken by mouth (orally) are not used for
Steroids are similar to natural
substances produced by the body (hormones) that
help reduce inflammation. If inflammation is not a symptom of your
osteoarthritis, steroids are less likely to be helpful.
may be used to reduce inflammation in tendons and ligaments in osteoarthritic
If a person has not improved with
nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), an
injection of corticosteroid into the joint can sometimes be helpful for
short-term pain relief.
Corticosteroids may relieve pain
caused by osteoarthritis for a short amount of time (weeks to months).footnote 1
If corticosteroid injections are helpful,
symptoms may improve for weeks to months. Some people get long-term relief of 6
months or more with a single cortisone shot. If you have a moderate amount of
fluid in the joint, your chances of responding are probably better.
All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.
Here are some important things to think about:
Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:
Call your doctor if you have:
One common side effect of this medicine is pain and swelling the first day or two after the
injection. It may help to apply ice at home for 15 to 20 minutes.
See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug
Reference is not available in all systems.)
The standard of
practice is that steroid injections should be given only 3 or 4 times a year in
a single joint area.
Injection of any
substance into a joint or tendon has a very small risk of harm, including
damage to a tendon, ligament, or nerve; bleeding into the tissue; or infection.
Although these rarely happen, your doctor will probably mention the
possibilities to you before you get an injection into a joint.
Nobody likes needles. But experienced doctors can usually do the injection in under 30 seconds. It does hurt, but it's quick.
Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.
There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.
If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or planning to get pregnant, do not use any medicines unless your doctor tells you to. Some medicines can harm your baby. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. And make sure that all your doctors know that you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or planning to get pregnant.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.
Intra-articular injections for osteoarthritis of the knee (2006). Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics, 48(1231): 25–27.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerAnne C. Poinier, MD - Internal MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerKenneth J. Koval, MD - Orthopedic Surgery, Orthopedic Trauma
Current as ofFebruary 24, 2016
Current as of:
February 24, 2016
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & Kenneth J. Koval, MD - Orthopedic Surgery, Orthopedic Trauma
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