What is it?

  • Cortisone is one of the most commonly used treatments for a wide-range of conditions, including arthritis, tendinitis, and bursitis. It’s a steroid that is naturally produced by the adrenal glands and acts as a potent anti-inflammatory mediator – meaning that it works by reducing the inflammatory process.

How is it given?

  • The amount of cortisone given by a doctor is usually much more than the body normally produces and can be administered either orally (which spreads small doses throughout the body) or as an injection (which provides a large dose directly at the site).

Is it beneficial?

  • Cortisone has many benefits. It’s quick and easy to administer, has been found to be clinically effective (for a variety of conditions, such as knee osteoarthritis1), and can last up to several weeks.
  • However, for some conditions that it’s routinely used for, it has not been shown to be that beneficial. For instance, it has not been shown to be clinically significant for femoral acetabular impingement, hip labral tears2, and stenosing tenosynovitis3. The key thing to understand is that cortisone works by decreasing inflammation, so it’s most effective on conditions that are primarily inflammatory.

Are there any side-effects?

  • Like any treatment, there are side effects. It’s important to remember that these are rare and mainly become a concern when repeated uses are performed. Repeated uses can cause loss of the protective fatty tissue surrounding an area (such as the plantar fat pad – which can be affected when using cortisone for plantar fasciitis) as well as weakening of the tendons in the treated areas.

Bottom line:

  • Cortisone can be a great option for inflammatory conditions – not just any painful one. If it doesn’t help too much the first time, then repeated doses may not be worth it.


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Written by Dr. Brandon Buchla, DC, CSCS

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