Steroid injections are commonly used to treat a variety of inflammatory conditions of the upper extremity. Examples of these include trigger finger (stenosing tenosynovitis), deQuervain’s tendinosis, carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis, tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis), and rotator cuff tendonitis.
Steroid injections typically contain a mixture of a synthetic cortisone and a local anesthetic such as lidocaine or bupivacaine. Cortisone is a steroid normally produced by the adrenal gland and is a powerful anti-inflammatory.
There are several available synthetic preparations such as triamcinolone, betamethasone, and dexamethasone, and they are also commonly referred to by their trade names. They all have similar mechanisms although they vary in strength and duration of action (short versus long-acting).
No single preparation has been found to be superior to others, so the choice of medication is left up to the individual provider.
These anti-inflammatory steroids are distinctly different from the anabolic steroids that have been abused by some athletes for body-building and performance enhancement. The local anesthetic dissolves the steroid and anesthetizes the area of the injection, diminishing discomfort during the procedure.
Steroid injections in the hand, wrist, or elbow work by decreasing inflammation. Once the inflammation subsides, the associated pain usually improves as well.
A steroid injection procedure typically begins with cleaning the area with an antiseptic such as iodine preparation, alcohol, or other skin disinfectant. The injection is then given with a small needle. Typically, only a small amount of steroid and local anesthetic is injected.
Afterward, the area is covered with gauze or an adhesive bandage.
The injection should take effect within a few days, and the benefits can last for many weeks. The exact timing, however, varies from patient to patient.
For some conditions, one injection can be sufficient to completely get rid of the inflammation and pain while for more severe cases, several injections may be required. Most patients respond well to injections although a small subset may not experience any relief of symptoms.
There is no set rule as to how many injections a person can get. Many providers use three injections as a rule of thumb, although in some cases, more frequent injections may be helpful. Your response to the first injection is very important in determining whether to proceed with re-injection.
Many providers limit the number of injections because repeated cortisone may cause damage to tendons or cartilage.
The most common side effect of steroid injection is known as a cortisone flare. This is thought to happen when the steroid crystallizes after being injected. In patients who experience a flare, a brief episode of pain lasting one or two days follows the injection. This pain can be worse than the initial discomfort for which the injection was given. Cortisone flares resolve spontaneously over a few days and can be treated with ice and immobilization.
Another common side effect, especially in patients with darker skin, involves skin discoloration at the injection site. The skin becomes locally lighter in color and sometimes thinner. Although this can improve, the whitening of the skin can sometimes be permanent.
One of the more serious complications from steroid injections is an infection, especially if the injection was given into a joint. Fortunately infections are rare and can usually be prevented by carefully cleaning the skin before performing the injection.
Very rarely, some patients may experience allergic reactions to the steroid or local anesthetic in the injection.
Individuals with diabetes should be especially cautious if they have a steroid injection. Diabetic patients will often notice a transient increase in their blood glucose in the days following a steroid injection.
If you have received a steroid injection and the area is bright red, warm to the touch, or your temperature is greater than 101 degrees orally, you should call your provider to check for an infection.
Dr. Aroras office from my first call to schedule my appointment was friendly. Walking in the first day, I felt like I was in a nice atmosphere. Dr. Arora was EXCELLENT in taking great care of my hand injury. He was gentle and very understanding to the concerns I had about my hand. His expertise was admirable and I would recommend anyone with an injury to their hand to his office to be under his care. Because of him, I have healed faster than expected and will make an 100% recovery! Thank you Dr.Jackie S.
I first thought I was going to have to have painful injections or surgery, but Dr. Arora suggested physical therapy may do the trick. I was doubtful, but I agreed to do it. Now, my pain is gone, and with the help of an ergonomic keyboard at work to keep my hands in the correct position, I am virtually pain free. The therapy strengthened my wrists and shoulders, and built more flexibility into my wrists.Jerry T.
My experience with this doctor was positive from the outset. Dr. Arora was kind and spent a great deal of time with me. Staff was friendly. The office was nice and bright.Ariel G.
Very friendly and helpful Great staff!!! Doctor Arora was very professional and did great work. I was very happy with everything!L B.