Your shoulder is one of the most flexible and complex joints in your body. It is most prone to injury because of its extensive network of ligaments and muscles, and because it helps us accomplish all types of activities: When you are reaching for something on a shelf, brushing your hair, casting a fishing line, or throwing a ball, you are relying on your shoulder. The shoulder is also prone to arthritis because of the constant wear and tear of the ball and socket joint.
There are many treatment options for shoulder pain, depending on the severity of the patient’s issue. If appropriate, I often recommend a cortisone steroid injection to help relieve the pain and discomfort. Some patients will feel great relief from an injection, while others may not. It is impossible to predict which patients will feel better, but because it is not invasive and can be completed quickly and easily, it is a common practice.
Steroids act as an anti-inflammatory and will frequently reduce the pain in an inflamed area. It is not a pain-relieving medication. When pain decreases from the cortisone, it is because the inflammation has decreased. Cortisone injections usually work within a few days and the effects can last up to several weeks or months. We do not have any rules for how many injections a patient can receive, but there are practical limitations. If an injection wears off quickly or does not help, repeating it may not be worthwhile.
Steroid injections are very highly concentrated and can be very effective if injected into the correct spot. At OSC, we administer these injections using ultrasonography, meaning that we use real-time ultrasound image to guide us to help us inject it in just the right location. There have been studies completed that advise us to use ultrasound imaging for better results, including better function and improved motion. Injections administered without guided ultrasound may have increased side effects such as muscle spasm, post-injection pain or redness at the site.
If you have shoulder pain and would like to find out what treatment options are available, please make an appointment with me and we will work together to determine how I can help you feel better.
Martin R. Coleman, MD is a board- certified Orthopaedic Specialist with Orthopaedic and Spine Center in Newport News, Virginia. His area of specialty is the treatment of shoulder injuries and arthritis, with a focus on Traditional and Reverse Shoulder Replacements. To make an appointment, please call 757-596-1900.