Cortisone Injections, are they the best option?

Often when experiencing the pain of chronic conditions such as tennis elbow, shoulder or back pain the injection of corticosteroids (often referred to as steroids or cortisone injections) is offered as a quick and easy form of pain relief. Corticosteroids are injected directly into the affected tissue in an attempt to reduce pain and increase mobility and function. For some people this approach works quite well but contrary to popular belief corticosteroid injection is not always the best option and doesn’t work for everyone. Unless it is delivered within the first 6 weeks of an acute injury, corticosteroid injections should be considered to be the treatment of last resort after all other treatment options have been tried without success. Before undergoing corticosteroid injections you should also arm yourself with the latest available evidence of what corticosteroid injections really means to your condition.

Cortisone is not a pain relieving medication but rather a powerful anti inflammatory. Any pain relief achieved is due to reducing the overall inflammation in the effected area. If your condition is not an inflammatory one, corticosteroid injections can offer you little hope of reducing pain. The latest scientific evidence actually suggests that corticosteroid injections offer limited short term pain relief and are of little long term use for common conditions that cause shoulder pain and tennis elbow. Perhaps this is because unless the underlying cause of the condition is treated, corticosteroid injections will only provide temporary relief. The issue of providing only temporary relief is of particular concern to those with chronic conditions because corticosteroid injections into the same body area more than three to four times a year is not recommended due to the perceived risk of complication involving local tissue.

In a recent newsletter for Kenmore Centre for Health, Stephen discussed our approach to treating back pain using acupuncture and acupuncture point injection therapy to treat the underlying cause of the pain and not just the symptoms. Not restricted to the treatment of back pain this approach is used when treating any musculoskeletal condition. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of acupuncture point injection therapy is that recent reviews of research show the injection of saline may be just as effective as injecting substances such as corticosteroids and other strong drugs. The research also concludes that saline is a safe treatment. Because isotonic saline is pharmacologically inactive, it carries none of the risks inherent with other pharmaceutical or herbal medications. For more information about acupuncture point injection therapy see our website


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About Ian Murray

Ian is a registered acupuncturist and Chinese Herbal Medicine practitioner at Kenmore Centre for Health. This website contains general information about medical conditions and treatments. The information is not advice, and should not be treated as such.
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