Joint injections are able to target medications directly into an affected joint. By focusing treatment to a very specific location, we can address the pain and inflammation at its source rather than using oral medications that affect the entire body. We use fluoroscopy (real-time x-ray) to confirmation accurate needle placement into the correct location. Depending on the joint to be injected, a patient may be placed under sedation or general anesthesia for the procedure. Steroids, pain medications, platelet rich plasma (PRP), and stem cells are all options for joint (and ligament and tendon) injections.
Steroids are powerful medications that relieve pain and reduce inflammation very effectively. Steroids may be delivered orally or by injection. Unfortunately, oral steroids affect many of the body’s organ systems and can have negative side effects, such as increased blood glucose levels, increased thirst, urination, hunger and possible gastrointestinal upset. Oral non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) have become the mainstay for treating arthritis pain due to these significant side effects. NSAIDs, like oral steroids, can also have negative consequences, such as gastrointestinal upset, liver disease and kidney issues.
Steroids delivered by injection directly into the joint can help to avoid the negative side effects. A small, targeted dose of a steroid directed into the joint can benefit patients that are no longer helped by oral medication or are not able to tolerate oral NSAIDs. Injections can also be used to quickly decrease inflammation so that joint comfort and mobility improves. This allows more effective rehabilitation sessions and speeds the recovery process. After the steroid injection procedure, the joint may be sore for a few days. Oral pain medications can be prescribed to help with any temporary post-injection discomfort. Rehabilitation sessions can begin after 4-5 days of rest. Depending on the underlying disease process, steroid injections may provide pain relief that can last for several weeks to several months and in some cases even longer.