Joint & Vein Injections
Steroid Joint Injections
Your doctor might suggest having a steroid injection if one of your joints is affected by arthritis, such as your shoulder, knee, elbow or wrist joint. Steroid joint injections can help to reduce pain and swelling in the joint and allows it to move more easily. Steroid injections can also be used to ease the pain and swelling in soft tissues, e.g. carpal tunnel syndrome or tennis elbow. The pain relief can last for anything from 1 week to 2 months or longer, depending on the type of steroid you have injected. Injections can be repeated every 3 to 4 months, with no more than 3 injections in 1 year.
Are there any Alternatives to a Steroid Injection?
An alternative to steroid joint injections will depend on what is causing the pain. Alternative treatments include anti-inflammatory drugs, steroid tablets, painkillers and physiotherapy. You can speak to your doctor about the different options available to you.
Preparing for a Steroid Joint Injection
Your doctor will discuss with you what will happen before, during and after your procedure and any pain you might experience. This is your opportunity to understand what will happen and you can help yourself by preparing questions about possible risks, benefits and any alternatives to the procedure. This ensures that you are informed and are able to give your consent for the procedure to go ahead by signing a medical consent form. The injection may also contain a local anaesthetic, or you may be given a separate injection of local anaesthetic before your steroid injection. This helps to temporarily relieve pain as you the injection is administered.
What Happens during a Steroid Joint Injection?
Your doctor will examine the area and clean the skin with a sterile wipe. He or she will then inject the steroid. If you are having a local anaesthetic, your doctor may administer this as a combined injection with the steroid using a single syringe. Alternatively, you may have two separate injections.
What can I Expect Afterwards?
Following a local anaesthetic, it may take several hours before the feeling comes back into the treated joint. You need to take special care not to bump or knock the area. You may need pain relief to help with any discomfort as the anaesthetic wears off. You are usually able to to go home when you feel ready. Before you go home, your doctor may assess the movement you have in the treated joint and give you some exercises to do over the coming weeks. You will need to arrange for someone to drive you home and it is advisable to have a friend or relative with you 24 hours after your treatment.
Recovering from your Steroid Joint Injection
It is likely that you will feel some discomfort as the local anaesthetic wears off. The pain may be initially worse than before the injection. If you need pain relief, you can take over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. If you are having physiotherapy, your physiotherapist may encourage you to move the joint. Alternatively, you may be advised to keep movements to a minimum for a day or two, so it is important to follow your doctor’s or physiotherapists advice. The majority of people have no problems following steroid joint injections.
Are There any Risks?
As with any procedure, there are some risks associated with steroid injections. Ask your doctor to explain how these risks apply to you…
Side-effects are the unwanted but mostly temporary effects you may get after having the procedure. Side-effects of steroid joint injections include:
- An increase in pain and swelling in the injected area. This usually settles within a day or two but can sometime last up to 2 weeks.
- Thinning or a change in the colour of the skin around the injection site. This tends to be more common with stronger or repeated injections.
- A flushed or red face.
Complications are when problems occur during or after the procedure. Complications of steroid joint injections can include:
- Infection. You may need treatment with a course of antibiotics.
- Damage to nerves or tendons. This usually only happens with repeated injections, but can cause numbness and weakness in your joint.
- Changes in the menstrual cycle in women.
- Changes in your mood.
- Weakening of the bones, muscles and ligaments around the injected joint. This tends to be more common with repeated injections.