Even in a small joint, osteoarthritis (OA) can have a big impact on your life. For instance, OA in your fingers can keep you from holding a pen or opening a jar. A stiff or sore knee can make it hard to walk.
Getting a shot of corticosteroids (sometimes called a steroid shot) directly into a sore joint can ease pain quickly.
After a skiing injury 30 years ago, Bert Pepper, MD, got osteoarthritis in his left knee. "I stopped skiing and gave up tennis, running, and other sports that are tough on the knee," he says. "I turned to speed-walking to stay fit, but the knee kept me from walking at a good pace."
As his pain got worse and walking became harder, he looked into having a knee replacement. It's not a decision to make lightly, says Pepper, who is a psychiatrist. "It's a major life event. You have to be prepared to...
Corticosteroids help fight inflammation -- the heat, redness, pain, and swelling in an injured or inflamed part of the body. Corticosteroid shots ease pain faster than anti-inflammatory pills. A single injection doesn’t cause stomach upset the way pills can. When corticosteroids are injected into a joint, their effects are mostly limited to that joint.
What to Expect
Most corticosteroid injections into your knee or a smaller joint, like the base of your thumb, can be done in a doctor’s office.
First, the doctor cleans your skin with an antiseptic. If the joint is puffy and filled with fluid, the doctor may insert a needle into the joint to remove the excess fluid. This quickly relieves some of the pain, because it reduces pressure in the joint. Removing extra fluid may also speed healing.
Next, the doctor uses a different syringe to inject the corticosteroid into the joint. Relief is almost instant, because the corticosteroid is usually mixed with a painkiller. The corticosteroid begins to curb inflammation within a few hours. The relief usually lasts from several weeks to several months.
Injecting a large joint, such as your hip, or in the spine is more complex. Your doctor may use imaging technology to help guide the needle into place.