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Steroid Injections: Know About Their Uses And Abuses


Pain and inflammation pose a great challenge in daily chores. It is not a new or rare problem and is encountered by many.

Joint pain is not just an approaching system of old age but health hazards like arthritis. Similarly, increased inflammation poses a threat to your heart.

Amidst all the problems, a medical solution that emerged is steroid injections.

Hearing of this, you might think of steroids used for bodybuilding. If yes, you are about to bust one of your biggest myths while reading ahead.

To know all about steroid injections, follow up on the details below.

What Are Steroid Injections?

Steroid injections are an artificially created drug that mimics[1] the naturally occurring human hormone cortisol.

This hormone is also called[2] the stress hormone and is released by the adrenal gland. It is also called corticosteroid injection.

It is often confused with anabolic steroids that the bodybuilder uses for gains and a quick big guy physique.

Both of them are termed steroids so they are misinterpreted as drug abuse. Steroid injections have a variety of names like steroid shots, cortisone shots, or cortisone injections.

They are used to treat numerous medical conditions. Pain and inflammation are the biggest targets of steroid shots.

How Are Steroid Injections Given?

Steroid injections are always recommended and given by medical experts. Before injecting them, blood pressure and blood sugar levels are tested.

In case any of the two is higher than normal, steroid injections cannot be given as they increase both blood pressure and blood sugar levels.

Besides, there are two methods to inject steroids. The first one is systematic where steroids go through the entire body. The methods that come under this are injecting it in veins or muscles.

When steroids are injected into veins it is called intravenously. However, when injected into muscles they are called[3] intramuscularly.

The second method is injecting it locally. These are injected into fluid-filled sacs that are between tendons and bones to reduce friction.

They can also be injected into joints (intra-articular injection), tendons, and soft areas surrounding them ( peri-articular injection).

For local methods, an ultrasound can be taken to detect the inflamed area. To get pictures of the body parts, ultrasound makes use of high-frequency sound waves.

It is done so that the injection is given at the right spot and works effectively. In some cases, there is no need for an ultrasound.

You can be given cortisone injections before surgery or in the hospital for treatment of problems[4] like rheumatoid arthritis.

You might also be given an anesthetic along with steroid shots as these are uneasy to deal with.

The anesthetic effect will get away in an hour or a half. Sometimes the numbness lasts for a day.

After giving an injection, you are kept under supervision for 15-20 minutes. This is to check for reactions, if any, can be quickly treated in the hospital.

You are likely to feel dizzy or experience fatigue after these injections. Somebody else should drive or arrange other transport.

Keep the injection sight dry and clean for the forthcoming 24 hours. If it is sore, use an ice pack for about 10-15 minutes on the spot.

How Long Do They Take To Work?

Steroids can start working in a few hours or might even take a day or two. The short-acting soluble steroids are quick to act and last for a week.

Others might take time to start showing their effect but last longer. They usually last up to a couple of months.

However, the duration can increase if you are using other methods of treatment. Steroid shots do not cure the problem itself but relieve the symptoms.

Some cortisone injections are used as temporary treatment while others are used for chronic treatment.

What are the uses of steroid injections?

Steroid shots are used in a variety of treatments. Some of them are-

  1. Rheumatoid Arthritis

    This is the name for a chronic[4] disease with joint pain and inflammation joints. It affects the entire body. Steroid shots are often recommended to reduce inflammation and hence pain.

  2. Inflammatory bowel disease

    The prolonged[5] inflammation in the digestive tract is due to numerous digestive disorders. It can be either Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.

  3. Lupus

    It is an autoimmune disease causing[6] inflammation throughout the body. Therefore, its treatment is generally systematic rather than local.

  4. Allergies

    Different types of allergies trigger the immune system. Steroid injections work by suppressing the inflammation due to the action of this overactive response.

  5. Cancer

    Cancer is one of the most painful diseases a person experiences. Using steroids may help improve appetite, and reduce inflammation, allergic response, or overactive immune response.

  6. Sciatica

    It is a lower back pain that spreads to the hips and legs, caused[7] by the sciatic nerve. For treating sciatica, steroids are injected into the spine.

  7. Inflamed Tendons

    Stress on tissues may cause inflammation. The tendons inflamed near the shoulder, wrist, and elbow may instigate sharp pain. Steroids may relieve the same.

What Are The Benefits Of Using Steroid Injections?

Steroids, when used within limits, do not cause any major side effects. This is a plus point in comparison to other medications.

It is available for all age groups. The ones for juveniles are available to treat juvenile idiopathic arthritis.

Glucocorticoids are an effective treatment[8] for pain and inflammation. They can be enough if a person has no other problem besides inflammation or pain.

If a person has a medical history of some complications or problems, steroids can be given as a part of the overall treatment plan.

What Are The Side Effects Associated With Steroid Injections?

The risk of using local steroids is very less. Steroids should ideally be restricted to 3-4 times a year.

More than that, especially in the same place will cause side effects. Among all, oral steroids invite troubles the most.

Some of the side effects are-

  1. High Or Low-Intensity Pain

    Pain around the injection spot and area around is common. In case it gets sore, an ice pack can help.

    People also complain of increased pain in joints or affected areas after getting the shot. It is called steroid flare.

    Usually, the pain goes away in up to two days. Still, using simple painkillers like paracetamol may help.

  2. Fatigue

    Tiredness or dizziness is also observed by some people for about 24 hours. If accompanied by anesthesia, it may last longer.

  3. Bruising Or Color Change

    Bruises at the site of injection or a change in color of the area around might[9] also be seen. The skin can also become thin and pale.

  4. Face flushing

    Due to increased blood flow caused by steroids, you can experience sudden face flushing. Do not worry as this last for only a few hours.

  5. Insomnia

    Steroids can interfere with[10] sleep. This impact is greater if you got your shot in the evening. You might experience disturbed sleep or difficulty falling asleep.

  6. A Threat In The Case Of Diabetes

    Steroids are known[11] to raise blood sugar. levels People suffering from diabetes should inform the doctor before about their condition.

    The doctor will then decide if you are fit to get a steroid injection.

  7. Problematic In Case Of High Blood Pressure

    People suffering[12] from hypertension might not be fit for steroid treatment as it increases blood pressure. Medical experts can advise you on the best regarding this after the examination.

  8. Unfit Along With Certain Medications

    Anticoagulants are blood thinners that are used to reduce blot clots. If you use steroids along with anticoagulants, it may cause bleeding.

  9. Bleeding Disorder

    If you have a bleeding disorder, refrain from using steroid injections. It may cause internal bleeding in the joints and worsen the problem.

  10. In Case Of Infections

    In the case of infections or tissue damage, do not use steroid injections. They might not help with your pain or repair damage. Rather it may worsen it.

  11. Prolonged Use May Cause Damage

    If you take frequent injections or get more than 3-4 shots at the same place, it will make your bones, tendons, and ligaments weak.

  12. Stay Cautious In Case Of Pregnancy And Breastfeeding

    Although a single course of steroid injections is safe for the mother and baby when given more often or in later stages of pregnancy it can be problematic.

    It may cause insomnia, faster lung development in the baby, and high glucose in the mother’s urine. It is better to consult a doctor for ensuring safety.

    High doses of steroids may cause temporary milk loss in breastfeeding mothers.

  13. Alcohol

    Alcohol does not indulge in direct interaction with steroids. However, it may worsen the symptoms by suppressing the immune system.

    It is best to limit it and avoid it completely two days before steroid treatment.

  14. In The Case Of Recent Vaccination

    If you got a vaccine recently, steroids may not go well with it. It is better to avoid vaccination when undergoing steroid treatment.

    Shift your appointments before the treatment or delay them as per convenience.

  15. In Case Of An Allergy

    If you are allergic to steroids, there can be serious repercussions. That is why you are kept under observation after a steroid shot.


Steroid injections are different from bodybuilding anabolic steroids. They are used to treat pain and inflammation.

Overall, they are safe to use and cause no harm within limits. However, some mild side effects do exist.

You should not take them too frequently. Avoid self-prescription. These may cause harm in the case of certain medications or health conditions.

Therefore, it is best to discuss this with a medical expert for safety reasons.


Working4Health prefers using primary and verified references. We have strict sourcing guidelines and our primary references include peer-reviewed research, academic, and medical institution studies.

  1. Steroid injections – tendon, bursa, joint. Available from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007678.htm
  2. The role of cortisol in the body. Available from https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/the-role-of-cortisol-in-the-body
  3. Javier J. Polania Gutierrez; Sunil Munakomi. Intramuscular Injection. Last Update: May 12, 2022.Available from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK556121/
  4. Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). Available from https://www.cdc.gov/arthritis/basics/rheumatoid-arthritis.html
  5. Christopher McDowell; Umer Farooq; Muhammad Haseeb. Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Last Update: June 27, 2022. Available from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470312/
  6. Lupus Awareness. Available from https://www.cdc.gov/lupus/features/lupus-awareness/index.htm
  7. David Davis; Kushagra Maini; Arvind Vasudevan.Sciatica. Last Update: May 6, 2022. Available from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK507908/
  8. Melissa Vyvey. Steroids as pain relief adjuvants. Can Fam Physician. 2010 Dec; 56(12): 1295–1297.
  9. Bruise. Available from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007213.htm
  10. What Is Insomnia? Available from https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/insomnia
  11. Héctor Eloy Tamez-Pérez, Dania Lizet Quintanilla-Flores, René Rodríguez-Gutiérrez, et al. Steroid hyperglycemia: Prevalence, early detection and therapeutic recommendations: A narrative review. World J Diabetes. 2015 Jul 25; 6(8): 1073–1081. Published online 2015 Jul 25. doi: 10.4239/wjd.v6.i8.1073
  12. What Is High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) Available from https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/high-blood-pressure

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