Tag Archive for: cortisone injection

Will a Cortisone Shot Help Your Nagging Shoulder Pain?

Will a Cortisone Shot Help Your Nagging Shoulder Pain?

Nagging pain in your shoulder can be extremely annoying. But when it starts to interfere with things you love to do – you can’t help but wonder – is it time to get a cortisone shot? 

When you’ve got dull, nagging shoulder pain that just won’t go away, cortisone shots suddenly seem very attractive. They’re quick, easy, and seemingly harmless – right? Not so fast. Just because cortisone shots are extremely routine and popular – it doesn’t mean they are the best or right thing to do.

Cortisone shots are typically administered to reduce localized inflammation inside a joint or tendon. In shoulders, it’s very common to use this procedure to reduce pain from arthritis, bursitis, rotator cuff tendonitis, and even frozen shoulders.

When inflammation is confirmed to be the root source of your shoulder problem, and it’s not going away with medication, on its own, or with physical therapy – a cortisone shot may be the right course of action.

But what if inflammation is not the root source of your problem? What if inflammation is actually a secondary symptom?

This is where most of the confusion lies in the medical community. While it might not seem like a big deal (pain is pain, right?) – it’s a problem if you keep getting cortisone shots when you don’t actually need them.

Why?

Well overuse of cortisone shots can cause degeneration of your tendons and joint structures. So you only want to get one when you know: 1) it’s going to help and 2) if it’s necessary.

But how do you know? The key is in understanding the source of your pain. With chemical sources of pain, the source is inflammation and a cortisone shot is a good idea. But when it comes to mechanical pain, inflammation may exist but it’s not the source of your shoulder problem. In these cases, cortisone is either not helpful – or worse – it “works” but then masks your problem, sometimes for years.  

Let’s talk about the two sources of pain to help you understand.

“Chemical Pain”

Chemical pain is the result of your body’s natural inflammatory response to injury. It’s a complex chemical reaction that occurs after tissue damage that involves the releasing of chemicals from your blood and other cells to “flush out” the area and start the healing process.

A good example of this is when you fall and sprain something. The sprain causes temporary tissue damage so your body creates inflammation to heal it. Normally this process only lasts a few days, your pain subsides, and you’re back to normal in no time. But sometimes this inflammatory process lingers longer than it should.

For various reasons the accumulation of toxic chemicals sticks around and the result is constant irritation to the nerves and surrounding tissues. Constant, dull pain, even at rest, that tends to be very sensitive to any and all movement is often a tell-tale sign that you’re dealing with pain that is chemical in nature. In this case, a cortisone injection could be a good course of action for you.

“Mechanical Pain”

Mechanical pain does not need a cortisone shot and it won’t respond well to it. The hallmark sign of mechanical pain is that your pain will come and go based on certain activities, movements, or positions. It’s not constant and throbbing like with chemical pain. Eighty percent of all musculoskeletal problems – including shoulder pain – are mechanical in nature.

Now, the real problem is that whether or not your pain is mechanical, a cortisone shot often does take away your pain. Not only is this confusing – but many people question why they should even be concerned about this. Well – when the pain and inflammation you’re experiencing is secondary – which is often the case with mechanical pain – you never actually treat the true source of your pain when you “cover it up” with a cortisone shot.

For example, you might have an irritated rotator cuff tendon or arthritis that is exacerbated because of poor posture or immobility in your shoulder joint. If you inject cortisone into your tendon or joint, the pain will likely be relieved, but it will be temporary. It’s only a matter of time before your poor posture and movement habits cause irritation and pain again. This is the vicious cycle I see a lot of folks get themselves into. You risk never fixing the real problem, and irreversible damage to your tendon that might eventually need to be fixed surgically. 

Moral of this story… don’t rush to get a cortisone shot just because you’ve been told you have inflammation.

You must figure out the source of your inflammation first. Cortisone shots are not necessary if your pain is mechanical in nature, and might actually prolong your problem. If your pain comes and goes, or you have good days and bad days, this is a classic sign that your pain is likely coming from a mechanical source.

Your best course of action is to work with someone who understands and specializes in this. I’ve seen many cases where getting a cortisone shot provides a false sense of hope, and as a consequence, delays quality treatment that you should be getting instead. 

Are you local to Portsmouth, NH?

Request to speak to one of my specialists to see if we would be the right fit to help you get out of pain. CLICK HERE to request a Free Discovery with one of my specialists.

Dr. Carrie Jose, Physical Therapist and Pilates expert, owns CJ Physical Therapy & Pilates in Portsmouth and writes for Seacoast Media Group. To get in touch email her at info@cjphysicaltherapy.com or call 603-605-0402

Why your Cortisone Injection Failed You

Why your Cortisone Injection Failed You

When you have joint pain that won’t go away, especially after trying lots of physical therapy, your doctor might recommend you get a cortisone shot.

Cortisone shots are often prescribed for things like back pain, bursitis, bulging discs, cartilage tears, osteoarthritis, tendonitis, and many other conditions that are perceived to be inflammatory in nature. While every single one of these conditions can cause things to be inflamed, it doesn’t mean that inflammation is your underlying problem. If something else is causing any of these structures to get irritated and inflamed, then your cortisone injection won’t work. At the very best it will provide you temporary relief, but the problem will ultimately come back in about 6-12 months time.

Cortisone shots also come with many potential problems and side effects. So you really want to be sure that it’s necessary before you get one.

The list includes problems such as: cartilage damage, death of nearby bone, joint infection, nerve damage, temporary facial flushing, temporary flare of pain and inflammation in the joint, temporary increase in blood sugar, tendon weakening or rupture, thinning of nearby bone (osteoporosis), thinning of skin and soft tissue around the injection site, and whitening or lightening of the skin around the injection site. And none of these side effects account for human error with the procedure. If your doctor is “off” with his/her injection – you could end up with unnecessary tissue trauma and pain because your shot wasn’t injected correctly.

So when it comes to cortisone shots, you really want to make sure that 1) the root source of your problem is inflammation and 2) you actually need one.

The reason why so many cortisone injections “fail” is because quite often – they weren’t needed in the first place. Even though the actual pain you are experiencing might be due to inflammation, the underlying cause leading to the inflammation could be something else entirely. Cortisone shots are used to address inflammation. But 80% of the time the musculoskeletal pain you’re experiencing is due to a mechanical or movement problem. So while the symptoms you’re experiencing could be due to inflammation, the root cause of your issue could be due to something else. In this case, the cortisone shot will not help – or worse – provide you with temporary relief that leads you to think it did.

Let me explain with a bit of scientific research.

Studies show that 70-80% of people over the age of 50 have a bulging disc on their MRI. 60% have a meniscus tear in their knee. These findings are considered normal as you age. The research also says that not all of these people experience pain. So you can have two people with the exact same MRI findings and one person will be perfectly fine while the other can barely walk. This is how we know that “the finding” (a bulging disc or meniscus tear for example) isn’t necessarily the problem.

The source of the problem is what is causing that bulge or tear to get annoyed.

About 80% of the time it’s going to be something like a faulty movement pattern or “mechanical issue,” such as poor mobility or stability, leading to some compensatory movement strategies in your body. When you don’t move well, structures like normally occurring disc bulges and meniscus tears can get irritated.

For example, let’s say you have a bulging disc in your back. If you sit for most of the day, travel a lot for work, or have a job that involves a lot of repetitive lifting, these types of activities are known to really aggravate a bulging disc. If all you do is inject cortisone to calm down the irritation, you won’t be fixing the real problem… which in this case is your daily movement habits. After about 6 months of returning to all these activities again, the pain WILL come back.

The good news is that there are ways to solve this type of problem (and others) naturally, and without a cortisone injection. But the important thing for you to realize here is that if you did get a cortisone shot recently and it appears to have “failed,” the last thing you want to do is get another one or resort to an even more invasive procedure. It’s possible you didn’t need it in the first place, so you want to make sure that is uncovered first.

So, if you’ve recently had a cortisone shot and it didn’t work, it could very well be that you never actually needed it… or that the wrong problem (inflammation) was being addressed instead of the underlying cause.

If you are considering something like a cortisone shot, it’s always a good idea to get a second opinion to make certain you really need it and that it’s the best course of action for your problem. And if you’ve already had one and it didn’t work, don’t worry, odds are good that there is still a solution out there for you… and it doesn’t have to involve more procedures.

It could be as simple as learning how to move better!

Sign up for a FREE Discovery Session today to speak with my client success team to see if we can help you avoid quick fixes like cortisone shots and get long lasting results. 

Carrie Jose, Physical Therapist and Pilates expert, owns CJ Physical Therapy & Pilates in Portsmouth, NH.  To get a free copy of her guide to taking care of back pain – click here.