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Steroid injections in the hip or knee: what you need to know

17/12/2021

In this article, Mr Mandeep Lamba (Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon at The Holly Private Hospital) answers frequently asked questions about steroid injections.

Millions of people worldwide are affected by joint conditions, such as:

• osteoarthritis (when joints become painful and stiff)
• tendonitis (the swelling of a tendon, which is a thick cord attaching a muscle to a bone)
• bursitis (the painful swelling of a joint, often caused by repetitive movement or an injury)

These conditions can cause debilitating pain and major problems with movement. If lifestyle changes and oral medications do not relieve your symptoms, you may be offered steroid injections to treat painful knees or hips.

What is a steroid injection and how can it help?

Steroid injections are used to treat painful musculoskeletal conditions in the lower limbs, including:

• osteoarthritis of the hips and knees
• inflammatory joint disease
• other conditions affecting the joints

You usually have steroid injections in the outpatient department of a hospital. The injection itself takes only a few minutes.

Are steroid injections safe?

Steroid injections are a safe, quick and proven way to relieve joint pain and inflammation (swelling).

Most patients’ symptoms improve within a few days. Pain relief can often last for several months.

Is a steroid injection painful?

Like any injection, a steroid injection can be a bit uncomfortable at the time. Any discomfort is only temporary. You also have a local anaesthetic to make the area that is treated numb. This means that you experience as little pain as possible.

Do steroid injections have any side effects?

Occasionally, there may be a flare-up of joint pain within the first 24 hours after a steroid injection. This usually settles by taking simple painkillers like paracetamol. Other side effects include infection, bruising and skin discolouration, but these happen very infrequently.

Will steroid injections make me put on weight?

A small amount of steroid is used and accurately placed into the joint. This means that the effects on the rest of your body are minimal.

The steroids in the injections are medically proven to be effective for joint pain. They are not anabolic or oral steroids associated with weight gain.

Will steroids increase my chance of getting coronavirus (Covid-19)?

Steroids work by reducing inflammation. They are injected into the joint or nearby soft tissues and never into the bloodstream. Recent evidence shows that musculoskeletal steroid injections do not increase your risk of getting coronavirus.

It is recommended, however, that you wait at least two weeks either side of your coronavirus vaccine before having a steroid injection.

Are steroid injections effective?

In most cases, a single steroid injection is sufficient but in other cases you may need another injection. This may be part of a treatment plan that includes analgesics (pain-relieving drugs) and physiotherapy. You can safely have steroid injections more than once a year if this is considered to be medically necessary.

In some situations, you may need to have ultrasound-guided steroid injections. Specialist musculoskeletal radiologists give these injections. They help to ensure that the needle is placed more accurately at the area causing your pain.

If steroid injections do not result in a lasting improvement, you may need to consider other options such as surgery.

About Mr Mandeep Lamba

Mr Mandeep Lamba, Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon, has regular clinics at The Holly Private Hospital. To book an appointment, please call 020 3504 8481 or complete this form online.

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