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Joint injections are medicines injected into a joint. They are given to reduce pain and swelling in a joint. The medicine is often a combination of corticosteroids and local anesthetic (numbing medicine). Injections may relieve pain for several weeks or months.
This treatment is most often used in joints like the hips, knees, and shoulders.
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
Damage to skin and tissue
Worsening of other conditions (eg, diabetes)
Hypopigmentation (loss of skin color)
Joint infection (small risk)
Another possible complication is steroid flare. This is an increase in swelling of the joint. It may be caused by preservatives in the medicine mix. The flare can develop within a few hours of the injection. It may last up to three days. This swelling will go away on its own. Applying ice to the area will help.
Sometimes, you may have a reaction to the local anesthetic used. Reaction can occur up to 30 minutes after the injection and may include:
Flushing (may include chills, shaking, and headache)
Your doctor may limit the number of injections per year (eg, no more than four injections per year). Repeated use of injections may quicken normal age-related changes in the joint. This can cause problems with cartilage, ligaments, and tendons.
Talk to your doctor about these risks before the procedure.
This procedure can usually be done in your doctor's office.
Your doctor will locate the site where the injection will be placed. The area may be marked with a pen or marker. The injection area will be wiped with an alcohol pad.
Your doctor may flex the joint being injected. The doctor will then inject the joint in the area where it is most swollen and tender. The needle will be inserted to the bone. It is then pulled back slightly before the injection is given.
The local anesthetic may provide immediate relief. It will also help your doctor confirm the diagnosis. The steroid may provide relief from pain, swelling, and inflammation for a longer period of time.
You will be able to leave after being monitored for 30 minutes.
When you return home, take these steps:
Follow your doctor’s instructions for caring for the injection site.
Ask your doctor about when it is safe to shower, bathe, or soak in water.
Avoid strenuous activity with the injected joint for several days.
Your doctor may recommend non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicine (NSAID) for pain. You may need it during the first few days.
Your symptoms may get worse for 24-48 hours after the injection. You may also have a steroid flare. You can apply ice to the injected joint for 15 minutes at a time. Always wrap ice in a towel. Do not apply it directly to your skin.
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This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
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