If you live with hip and back pain, you already know how overwhelming it can be just to manage your day-to-day symptoms. Add on trying to figure out long-term treatment and symptom management, and it’s no wonder that you may be feeling stuck. With so many treatments available, it can be difficult to figure out what the pros and cons of each one are and which ones actually have the best chance of working to treat your pain.
Fortunately, pain management specialists can help with guiding your care and advising on what treatments might be most effective for your unique health conditions and symptoms. At Lone Star Spine & Pain Institute, we can help you narrow down your treatment options and develop a comprehensive treatment plan that is tailored to your needs. While there are many treatments that we provide, one especially popular treatment at our pain management treatment centers is cortisone steroid injections.
In this article, we will discuss what cortisone steroid injections are, how they work, what the process of getting them may look like, and ways to evaluate if it could be the right next step in your pain management treatment plan.
What Are Cortisone Steroid Injections?
Cortisone steroid injections are a type of joint injection that can be performed to help with pain and inflammation. Joint injections can be a helpful non-invasive treatment option to minimize the experience of pain. They can also help to increase the range of motion in the joint, which can be a big step for patients who are also participating in activities like physical therapy and exercise programs as another way to reduce their symptoms.
Cortisone is a man-made version of a natural hormone called cortisol, which is a primary stress hormone. Cortisol is most well-known for its part in the fight or flight response, which is when it increases available sugars to keep your body going and curbs functions that are non-essential in an emergency. One of the functions that cortisol suppresses is the immune system, as it is not as essential as other functions in the body for a fight-or-flight response. It is this function that cortisone injections attempt to simulate by suppressing the immune responses that can cause inflammation, which is a significant factor in many types of hip and back pain.
How Do Joint Injections Work?
Joint injections help improve symptoms by releasing medicine slowly into the joint. While some joint injections work by adding lubricant to the joint, cortisone steroid injections in particular work because steroids can have a calming effect on the immune system, reducing inflammation and relieving the pain and swelling that come with it.
These steroid injections can be a preferred treatment for many people with joint pain. A few main reasons for this are:
- They are a non-invasive treatment, making them relatively quick to get and recover from compared to more invasive treatment options.
- The effects are long-lasting, with some people experiencing pain relief for as long as a year.
- Side effects are extremely rare, and even more rare if only one part of the body is injected. The most common side effect is intense pain and swelling in the joint that was injected, which usually goes away after a day or two.
It is recommended to avoid any sort of heavy exercise for 24 hours after the injection so the joint can rest and adjust to the injected medicine, but after that, most people are able to enjoy relief from symptoms and participate in their normal daily activities. While these injections can’t be done frequently due to increased risks with more frequent use, most people who experience the positive effects of joint injections find that their symptom relief lasts for at least a few months, so more frequent injections would not be beneficial anyway.
How Do Cortisone Steroid Injections Help for Back and Hip Pain?
While cortisone steroid injections can often be effective treatments for both back and hip pain, the exact details may vary. As discussed before, cortisone helps relieve pain by reducing the immune response that may be responsible for some or all of the joint’s inflammation, thus relieving pain and making it easier for the patient to use that joint in day-to-day life. Usually, injections for the hip can be done as a typical joint injection, whereas cortisone steroid injections for the back may be done as an epidural. Here’s some more in-depth information on each type of cortisone steroid injection.
Epidural Cortisone Steroid Injections for Back Pain
While epidural injections are often associated with labor and delivery, they serve many other purposes, especially in the realm of pain management. The term epidural actually refers to the space that is in between the bony canal in your spine and your spinal cord. This space also contains exiting spinal nerves, which can become irritated by many sources including compression from herniated discs and degenerative changes involving other parts of the back.
Whatever the exact cause of a patient’s back and neck pain, epidural steroid injections such as cortisone steroid injections can be used as a non-surgical treatment for people with low back and neck pain to help reduce symptoms and improve quality of life. This can be especially helpful in combination with other types of conservative pain management, such as physical therapy or anti-inflammatory medications.
Joint Cortisone Steroid Injections for Hip Pain
Hip pain includes pain around the hip joint itself, but also pain in the thigh, buttocks, and groin area. While injury is one common reason for hip pain to develop, there are many others, including:
- Arthritis, which comes in many forms and may impact one, a few, or all joints in the body. Arthritis is often associated with older adults, but can affect people of any age.
- Tumors, as some forms of hip cancer may cause pain because of bone weakness.
- Inflammation, which can be caused by a broad variety of health conditions and other symptoms in the body.
Many forms of hip pain respond well to over-the-counter medications, especially when used alongside physical therapy, but sometimes those interventions don’t have the results you’d hope for. If pain continues after these firstline interventions, minimally invasive treatments like cortisone steroid injections are a great next step to reduce symptoms.
Pros and Cons of Cortisone Steroid Injections
While these are an effective treatment option for many pain management patients, it’s important to consider the pros and cons of cortisone steroid injections to evaluate whether it’s the next right step for you.
- The non-invasive nature of these injections makes them a great option for treatment that is stronger than over-the-counter medications but not as drastic as surgery. Because of how non-invasive this treatment is, patients usually will not have to interrupt their regular routine in any significant way.
- Side effects are extremely rare, and when they do happen, they usually do not last longer than a couple of days. The most common side effect is increased pain and swelling in the area being treated for a day or two, after which the positive effects of the treatment will usually become noticeable.
- They do not need to be repeated frequently, with most patients experiencing pain relief lasting from a few months to over a year. Because of this, patients can usually schedule their next injection far in advance and simply enjoy the positive effects in between treatments.
- Cortisone shots may slightly increase the risk of developing illnesses such as the flu when exposed. This isn’t a side effect that everyone experiences, but it’s important for the patient to be aware of so they can take any recommended precautions.
- These injections don’t work for everyone, so there is a possibility that they will not provide the desired relief. It’s important to note that most treatments do have a chance of not working for some patients, so it’s a good idea to consult with an expert healthcare provider before making any changes to your treatment plan.
While it’s important to weigh all of the pros and cons based on your personal medical history and treatment goals, we at Lone Star Spine & Pain Institute have found cortisone steroid injections to be an effective pain management treatment for many of our patients. Because it is non-invasive and relatively low risk, it can be a powerful next step for people whose pain does not respond to more conservative treatments. Steroid injections can also be one important part of a more comprehensive pain management plan, which may include other treatment options as well.
If you’re interested in pursuing cortisone steroid injections for your hip or back pain or simply want to learn more about it as a potential pain management and treatment option, schedule a consultation at one of our two convenient locations today.. Whether you work with one of our San Marcos pain specialists or New Braunfels pain specialists, our team of clinicians is available and ready to help you decide the best treatment plan for your unique symptoms and goals and adjust until we find a combination of treatments that helps you.