A steroid injection is a shot of medicine used to relieve a swollen or inflamed area that is often painful. It can be injected into a joint, tendon, or bursa.
Your health care provider inserts a small needle and injects medicine into the painful and inflamed area. Depending on the site, your provider may use an x-ray or ultrasound to see where to place the needle.
For this procedure:
Steroid injections can be given into a bursa, joint, or tendon.
A bursa is a sac filled with fluid that acts as a cushion between tendons, bones, and joints. Swelling in the bursa is called bursitis. Using a small needle, your provider will inject a small amount of corticosteroid and a local anesthetic into the bursa.
Any joint problem, such as arthritis, can cause inflammation and pain. Your provider will place a needle in your joint. Sometimes ultrasound or an x-ray machine may be used to see where exactly the location is. Your provider may then remove any excess fluid in the joint using a syringe attached to the needle. Your provider will then exchange the syringe and a small amount of corticosteroid and a local anesthetic will be injected into the joint.
A tendon is a band of fibers that connects muscle to bone. Soreness in the tendon causes tendonitis. Your provider will put a needle directly adjacent to the tendon and inject a small amount of corticosteroid and a local anesthetic.
You will be given a local anesthetic along with the steroid injection to relieve your pain right away. The steroid will take 5 to 7 days or so to start working.
This procedure aims to relieve pain and inflammation in a bursa, joint, or tendon.
Risks of steroid injection may include:
Your provider will tell you about the advantages and possible risks of the injection.
Tell your provider about any:
Ask your provider if you should have someone to drive you home.
The procedure takes little time. You can go home the same day.
If you have diabetes, your provider will advise you to check your glucose level more often for 1 to 5 days. The steroid that was injected can raise your blood sugar level, most often only by a small amount.
Look for pain, redness, swelling, or fever. Contact your provider if these signs are becoming worse.
You may notice a decrease in your pain for the first few hours after the shot. This is due to the numbing medicine. However, this effect will wear off.
After the numbing medicine wears off, the same pain you were having before may return. This may last several days. The effect of the injection will start usually 5 to 7 days after the injection. This can decrease your symptoms.
At some point, most people feel less or no pain in the tendon, bursa, or joint after a steroid injection. Depending on the problem, your pain may or may not return.
Reviewed By: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.