Healthcare providers use cortisone shots to treat pain and inflammation. They’ll inject the medicine directly into the area of your body that’s experiencing symptoms. It can take around a week for a cortisone shot to take effect, but once it does, it should relieve your symptoms for at least a few weeks.
A cortisone shot is an injection of medicine that relieves pain and reduces inflammation (swelling).
Cortisone shots are a type of corticosteroid. Corticosteroids are manufactured drugs that closely resemble cortisol, a hormone your adrenal glands produce naturally. Healthcare providers sometimes refer to corticosteroids by the shortened term "steroids." They’re different than the anabolic steroids some athletes use to gain an unfair competitive advantage.
Providers usually use cortisone shots to treat inflammation in your joints, including your:
Your provider might also use cortisone shots to treat inflammation in your tendons or bursae — the plural form of bursa (fluid-filled sacs that cushion spaces around and between your joints, tendons and bones).
A healthcare provider might treat any condition that causes pain and inflammation with a cortisone shot, including:
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Doctors give cortisone shots during an office visit directly into the area or joint involved, or sometimes just into a large muscle to get it into the bloodstream. In other parts of the body, the injection often includes a local anesthetic (pain reliever) to start easing pain immediately. In these cases, cortisone is typically injected into three areas:
Cortisone shots are a safe, effective way to relieve pain and inflammation. They can also protect your joints from damage caused by chronic inflammation. Inflammation puts extra pressure on the bones and tissue in your joints. Over time, that pressure can damage your joints.
That’s why even though there’s no cure for arthritis, anti-inflammatory treatments like cortisone shots can help your provider manage your symptoms.
The most common side effects of cortisone shots include:
It’s rare for cortisone shots to cause severe side effects, but they can include:
How long it takes for a cortisone shot to work varies from person to person. Your symptoms like pain and inflammation might not get better immediately. It can take up to a week for a cortisone shot to take effect. Talk to your provider if it’s been more than 10 days and you don’t feel better.
You might only need one cortisone shot to relieve pain and inflammation, especially if you’re recovering from a temporary injury. If you have a chronic (long-term) condition, you might need more cortisone shots in the future.
Your provider will tell you when it’s safe to receive another dose of cortisone. You’ll probably need to wait at least three months between rounds of cortisone shots. Most people shouldn’t have more than three cortisone shots in a year.
Everyone’s body responds differently to a cortisone shot. It usually lasts somewhere between a few weeks and a few months. If you’re experiencing inflammation after an injury, the cortisone shot should be effective long enough for your body to heal fully.
If you experience chronic inflammation, you might notice your symptoms returning gradually over time. Talk to your healthcare provider if you notice new or worsening inflammation.
Talk to your provider if you’re still experiencing pain and inflammation more than 10 days after a cortisone shot. Let your provider know if your symptoms start to return a few months after your first cortisone shot.
Visit your healthcare provider if you experience any of the following symptoms after a cortisone shot:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Healthcare providers use cortisone shots to treat inflammation throughout your body. They’ll inject cortisone directly into an area that’s experiencing inflammation. You should feel relief from symptoms like pain and swelling around a week after your injection. If you have diabetes, talk to your provider about how much (and for how long) a cortisone shot will affect your blood sugar level. Most people have higher than usual blood sugar for a few days after their injection.
Some people only need one cortisone shot to give their body time to heal after an injury. Others need regular injections to help them manage a chronic condition. Ask your healthcare provider how often you’ll need follow-up injections.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 02/04/2023.
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