Catherine Burt Driver, MD, is board certified in internal medicine and rheumatology by the American Board of Internal Medicine. Dr. Driver is a member of the American College of Rheumatology. She currently is in active practice in the field of rheumatology in Mission Viejo, Calif., where she is a partner in Mission Internal Medical Group.
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
Corticosteroids are a class of medications that are related to cortisone, a steroid. Medications of this class powerfully reduce inflammation. They are used to reduce the inflammation caused by a variety of diseases. Cortisone is one type of corticosteroid. For the purpose of this review, "cortisone" is used interchangeably with "corticosteroid."
Corticosteroids can be taken by mouth, inhaled, applied to the skin, given intravenously (into a vein), or injected into the tissues of the body. Examples of corticosteroids include prednisone and prednisolone (given by mouth), methylprednisolone sodium succinate injection (Solu-Medrol) (given intravenously), as well as triamcinolone (Kenalog), betamethasone (Celestone), methylprednisolone (Depo-Medrol), and others (given by injection into body tissues). This article describes the role of cortisone injections into the soft tissues and joints.
Is a cortisone injection merely a pain reliever or temporary remedy?
Corticosteroids are not pain relievers. They reduce inflammation. When corticosteroids relieve pain, it is because they have reduced inflammation.
While the inflammation for which corticosteroids are given can recur, corticosteroid injections can provide months to years of relief when used properly. These injections also can cure diseases (permanently resolve them) when the problem is tissue inflammation localized to a small area, such as bursitis and tendonitis. They can also cure certain forms of skin inflammation.
Both localized atrophy of the subcutaneous tissues and discoloration are well known side effects of cortisone injections. Sometimes these are the desired effects of the injection, as when we inject steroids around nerve entrapments, with the intent that the atrophy will decrease the pressure on the nerve.