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Medications > Steroid | Cortisone | Injection > Steroid Injection – pictopamphlet


How to use this medication

What is a steroid?

Steroids are natural hormones produced by your adrenal glands. Steroids can be injected into joints to help to relieve the pain and swelling from arthritis. Examples inlcude methylprednisolone (depomedrol), triamcinolone (kenalog or aristospan), and betamethasone (celestone).

Given by injection

Steroids can be injected directly into a joint or around a tendon. After the injection the medicine works to relieve the pain and swelling from arthritis.

How long does it take to work

The injection will usually take about 24 to 48 hours to work.  If local freezing was given with the injection you might feel better a little bit quicker.

How long does it last

The length of improvement varies. Some patients can feel better for months while others find only a few days of relief.

How many injections can I have

If the first injection works well then you may benefit from another.  As a general rule the number of injections is limited to 3 or 4 for a single joint per year.

What you need to do

Call if red, hot, swollen, & painful joint

If the injected area becomes very painful, red, or swollen call your doctor immediately.  If your doctor is not available, seek medical attention right away. One of the very rare (1 in 15,000) risks of a steroid injection is infection.

Be careful with infection

Steroids can make it harder for you to fight infections. Call your doctor if you have a fever or think you have an infection.

Rest the joint for 24 hours

If possible, it is best to rest the joint for 24 hours after the injection.  This might make the injection work better and last longer.

Side effects & important things to know

Injury to the joint or tendon

A steroid injection can rarely cause injury to a joint or a tendon. Your doctor will discuss this risk.


After an injection some patients feel “flushed”. This usually isn’t serious but let your doctor know if this happens.

Blood sugars

A steroid injection can sometimes cause a rise in blood sugars in patients who have diabetes. If you have diabetes make sure to test your blood sugars for a few days after the injection.

Skin changes

A steroid injection can rarely cause an area of the skin to lose pigment (turn white). This is more common in darker skinned people. Steroids can also cause loss of the fat layer just below the skin causing the skin to turn a purple color.

Sleep trouble & increased energy

A steroid injection can sometimes make you feel full of energy.  This can sometimes make it difficult to sleep.

When should I call my doctor

Please call if you feel unwell

  • If you feel unwell after the injection
  • If you are concerned about any side effects

Other Reasons to Call your Doctor:

Severe pain in the area injected

Fever or think you have an infection

Skin changes or loss of pigment