Do Cortisone Shots Work for Arthritis Pain?


If you’re looking for ways to treat arthritis pain, you may have had a cortisone shot or wondered if one could work for treatment and relief for your condition. Cortisone injections can be an effective treatment for arthritis in combination with physical therapy. Find out more about how cortisone shots work and what makes them successful as a treatment for osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and other forms of arthritis.

What is cortisone?

Cortisone is a corticosteroid, which is a medication that simulates the naturally occurring hormone cortisol, according to the Arthritis Foundation. Adrenal glands produce cortisol, which affects the immune system and the body’s immune response. Corticosteroids mimic the effects of cortisol to help calm inflammation.

How do cortisone shots help?

Cortisone shots are administered in the inflamed area, ideally by an orthopedic specialist. They can be injected directly into aggravated joints or inflamed bursa sacs or near the tendons in a joint, according to Kaiser Permanente. A patient may feel relief immediately or within in a few days and it may last several months. If you have received a cortisone shot and it was not effective, particularly if it wasn’t administered by an orthopedic expert, it may not have been injected into the proper spot on your body.

Cortisone shots are not a cure-all — some patients do not experience relief from pain, stiffness and range of motion limitations caused by arthritis. But for many, the relief cortisone shots provide creates a window of opportunity to engage in a regimen of physical therapy that will provide longer-lasting benefits. Combining cortisone shots with physical therapy for arthritis pain is key to achieving the maximum treatment benefits.

Medicare or your insurance carrier may limit the number of times you can receive a cortisone shot each year, so contact your provider for details.

Why is physical therapy important?

Physical therapy is an essential and effective method of treating arthritis. A regimen of exercise, manipulation and other physical therapy treatments designed by an orthopedic physical therapist can help you build strength and learn to move your body in ways that will alleviate pressure on and protect your affected joints. Without this crucial component to care, the cortisone shots will only likely provide temporary relief.

Physical therapy and cortisone shots will likely be the first line of treatment for arthritis pain — long before longer-lasting gel injections or surgery are considered. Very few arthritis patients require surgery for treatment.

If you have any questions about cortisone shots or arthritis treatment, talk to an orthopedic expert that can connect you with a full range of services. It helps to get the right treatment for arthritis from the start in order to avoid complications down the line.