Cortisol, a Corticosteroid, is one type of steroid that we produce from our adrenal glands, glands that sit on top of our kidneys. This steroid allows our body to deal with stress as well as reducing inflammation in the body. This steroid is different from testosterone, estrogen, or progesterone which are reproductive steroids.
Corticosteroid injections have been done for over 50 years and have shown to be an effective and safe way to treat pain.
How do corticosteroids work? Corticosteroids don’t just treat symptoms like opioids do. Corticosteroids decrease inflammation similar to NSAID’s like ibuprofen or naproxen do, but only more so without increasing the risk to your kidneys. Not only do they reduce inflammation within a few days, they continue to reduce it for several months allowing tissues to heal. This becomes particularly important in cases of disc herniation, arthritic joints including those caused by osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, plantar fasciitis, sciatica, bursitis, frozen shoulder, and pinched nerves.
Corticosteroids are not for everyone. Please let us know if you suffer from gastric ulcers or severe osteoporosis as we have other options to treat people with these conditions.
What is inflammation? Inflammation causes pain; however, inflammation can be a good thing! Yes, you heard me right. So why do we want to reduce it if it is part of the healing process? In the beginning of the healing process, it is a good thing. Inflammation increases blood flow and allows our white blood cells, healing proteins, and our own stem cells to get to the inflamed injured area more easily. After an injury like a paper cut, for instance, after the bleeding is stopped, you see redness, swelling, and pain. This is inflammation. However, when inflammation remains longer than it should, it becomes a problem. Tissue that is chronically inflamed can’t heal. This is where corticosteroids can help. Yes, you can go to your primary care doctor and get an oral dose of corticosteroids such as a Medrol dose pack or prednisone, or can get an injection in your butt. However, only a small percentage of this steroid makes its way to the troubled inflamed area and it may not help. What we do is deliver the medication exactly to the inflamed area to treat the pain and allow the area to heal.
While steroids can be used to treat pain caused by chronic tennis elbow, rotator cuff tears, pain from arthritic joints, Achilles tendon tears, or any other tendon, ligament or muscle tear or injury, we suggest instead discussing regenerative therapy with us at Southwest Pain Management such as PRP, adult stem cell therapy, or amnion tissue to heal and repair the injured tissue. Steroids cannot heal a tendon or ligament tear.
Injections alone are not enough to treat pain and become more functional! Injections are part of an overall treatment plan that can include medications, physical therapy, and chiropractic.