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Are cortisone injections into joints safe?

Posted Oct 01 2008 8:12pm

Doctors often inject cortisone-type medications into painful damaged joints and tendons. Single injections can relieve pain and swelling and appear to be safe, but many studies show that repeated injections can damage joints and delay healing. Most doctors will recommend having no more than three injections into the same joint in a lifetime.

Athletes and exercisers often experience pain from injuries to their tendons, muscles, fascia or ligaments. When an injury heals in a few days, no treatment is indicated, but sometimes they persist for months, particularly in the fascia on the bottom or back of the heel, in the large tendon in the back of the lower leg, or in the tendons on the elbows or shoulders. Cortisone-type drugs reduce swelling and lessen pain and can allow an athlete or exerciser to get back to sports, but cortisone injections can weaken the tendons for several months.

If you suffer pain in tendons, muscles, ligaments or fascia, check with your doctor to see if you have a treatable chronic disease causing it, such as hepatitis or reactive arthritis. Non-steroidals that are usually prescribed can help to block pain but do not heal damaged tissue. If you receive a cortisone injection, make sure that you protect that area from hard exercise for at least two months.

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