In the medical fitness industry, I am often asked “should I get Cortisol shots”? I am not a medical doctor, so it is not my place to say if you should or should not however, I can explain the benefits and negatives to having it done.
The Bad of Cortisol shots
I usually like to start with the positives when comparing good or bad but there a so few benefits to a cortisol shot that it would do this article injustice to lead with it. The biggest negative is that the shot only masks the symptoms and never address the key source of the pain. Think of it as taking an Advil for a headache. For 2-4 hours you get relief but if you do not address the problem which could simply be dehydration, the headache will return with a vengeance. Mayoclinic.org list 9 possible risk of getting a cortisol shot.
• Joint infection
• Nerve damage
• Thinning of skin and soft tissue around the injection site
• Temporary flare of pain and inflammation in the joint
• Tendon weakening or rupture
• Thinning of nearby bone (osteoporosis)
• Whitening or lightening of the skin around the injection site
• Death of nearby bone (osteonecrosis)
• Temporary increase in blood sugar
In my experience most of my clients that received a cortisol shot started feeling pain again within a week or two. I have also had several clients that experienced no relief at all after the shot. Those who feel no different after the procedure are better off than those who did because some may feel the need to get more than one shot when the pain returns. Receiving too many shots will eventually lead to the several risk that are listed above.
The Good of Cortisol shots
The positives of getting a cortisol shot include reduced inflammation and an almost immediate decrease in pain. For some people relief, even if temporary is enough to get the shot and take the risk. There is another possible positive to a cortisol shot. With the reduced level of inflammation and pain the opportunity to address the real issue is now available. Its hard to even think of a manual therapy such as muscle activation or physical therapy when your pain level is 8 or above. For those who do experience relief and are not required to have surgery or any other procedure, should seek out some form of therapy or medical exercise to address why they are in pain and not just the pain itself.