Corticosteroid injections help diagnose or treat
rotator cuff disorders. Your doctor may
give you an injection of corticosteroid mixed with
anesthetic (often lidocaine) or may give you a shot of
anesthetic before a shot of corticosteroid.
How It Works
Corticosteroids may decrease inflammation and pain. But they
probably do not cure rotator cuff disorders.
Why It Is Used
Your doctor may inject a shot of anesthetic into your
shoulder (subacromial space injection) to help find out whether the limited
movement is caused by pain or weakness. If the anesthetic relieves the pain and
allows you to move your shoulder normally, the diagnosis is most likely some
form of rotator cuff disease. Your doctor may then inject
corticosteroids into the area to reduce
inflammation. But if your shoulder is still weak after
the injection of anesthetic, the problem is probably a rotator cuff tear.
Corticosteroid injections help relieve pain and inflammation in the
shoulder due to
bursitis in or around the rotator cuff. They usually
are used after other treatment (such as rest, ice or heat,
nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and
physical therapy) has failed to improve the
How Well It Works
After the anesthetic wears off (usually 4 to 6 hours after the
shot), you are likely to experience discomfort for a few days. The
corticosteroid will take effect and begin to relieve inflammation and pain
after 1 to 2 days.
The effectiveness of corticosteroid injections can vary. In some
cases, the relief from inflammation and pain may last for several weeks or
more. In other cases, the shot may help for only a short time (about a week).
And some people do not gain much relief from inflammation and pain.1
If pain is not relieved by the corticosteroid injection, the pain may be
caused by another problem.
Corticosteroids have potential side effects and should be used with
caution. Although they may provide relief from pain and inflammation,
corticosteroids can also slow healing and weaken tendons. Other side effects
- Increased pain during the first few days after
- Tendon degeneration.
- Skin color
- Dimpling of the skin (subcutaneous
- Infection at the injection site, although this is
- Elevated blood sugar levels if you have diabetes.
Your rotator cuff may be weaker shortly after a corticosteroid
injection. You should avoid strengthening exercises for a few days after your
You should also avoid contact sports for a
few days after a corticosteroid injection, or else you risk damaging an already
weakened or damaged rotator cuff.
Repeated use of corticosteroids may weaken tendons. Doctors usually wait at least 2 months between injections. And they do not usually give more than 3 or 4 injections into one area. If an initial corticosteroid injection does not
provide significant relief, a second shot may be given to ensure it was given
in the correct place.
See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference
is not available in all systems.)
What To Think About
Corticosteroid injections should not be given if there is any sign
Applying an ice pack to the shoulder after the anesthetic has worn
off and before the corticosteroid takes effect often helps reduce pain.
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Speed C (2006). Shoulder pain, search date February
2006. Online version of BMJ Clinical Evidence. Available