Myths and Facts About Steroid Injections

Steroid injections are a synthetic form of cortisol — an important hormone in your body that helps to reduce inflammation — and are used to treat a number of inflammatory conditions, including arthritis and tendonitis. Doctors use steroid shots as a nonoperative pain relief option for patients who may not want or need surgery. 

As with many medical treatments, myths abound about steroid injections. Our expert physicians at Arizona Center for Hand to Shoulder Surgery clear up five myths and give you the truth. 

Myth #1: Steroid shots are dangerous

The truth: Any injection has the potential to be dangerous, but when administered by the hand of an experienced physician like ours, steroid injections present no danger. Your doctor knows your health history and your current health status, and can advise you on when a steroid injection is a good idea, and when it’s not. 

Myth #2: You can only get steroid injections in your back 

The truth: You can receive steroid injections in virtually any part of your body, including your hands, arms, and shoulders. Our experts at Arizona Center for Hand to Shoulder Surgery specialize in treating conditions of the upper extremities, including carpal tunnel syndrome, trigger fingers, arthritis, tennis elbow, and more.

Myth #3: Steroid injections hurt more than other kinds of shots

The truth: You can liken a steroid injection to a flu shot. Your arm will probably be slightly sore in the hours following your shot, and the soreness may last up to a couple days. If you already have pain at the injection site, your steroid injection might aggravate the pain temporarily. But for the most part, the lasting pain relief from the cortisone outweighs the temporary pain from the shot. 

Myth #4: You’ll gain weight if you get a steroid shot

The truth: There is some evidence that steroid use leads to weight gain, but most research on the steroid-weight relationship has been conducted on patients who take oral steroids, rather than on patients who receive intermittent steroid injections. You most likely won’t gain weight from a single steroid injection, or even a few shots, as weight gain occurs from long-term, cumulative use of steroids. 

Myth #5: You can get as many steroid injections as you want 

The truth: While there’s no hard-and-fast rule limiting the number of steroid injections you can receive, no doctor would advise that you get a steroid injection every week or even every month. Our physicians at Arizona Center for Hand to Shoulder Surgery recommend that patients receive no more than three or four steroid injections each year, and sometimes even fewer. There are times when repeated steroid injections won’t help, such as if the relief of your first injection was short-lived or didn’t ease symptoms. 

To learn more about steroid injections, visit our FAQ on steroid shots. To talk with one of our physicians, call one of our locations in Phoenix or Mesa or book an appointment online. 

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