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  • Writer's pictureRehabon Physical Therapy

Corticosteroids for Joint Pain: Friend or Foe?!

Cortisone, also known as a corticosteroid or a steroid, is a hormone your body naturally produces via the adrenal glands. When delivered as a medication, corticosteroids reduce the activity of your immune system, which relieves inflammation and pain for people with different kinds of arthritis (as well as a wide range of other inflammatory diseases). As we know, there is no cure for osteoarthritis so steroid injections are commonly given to help ease that pain. But what if these injections could possibly make that pain worse?

Two small unpublished studies found that on average, knee arthritis advanced more quickly among patients who got corticosteroid injections than those who didn’t. The researchers looked at scans that were taken at the time of the injections, as well as two years before and after, and found more severe cartilage deterioration by the two-year follow-up mark among the steroid-taking group.

Although these studies show that corticosteroids may progress osteoarthritis, it does not mean that there’s no benefit for it for people who suffer from joint pain. Corticosteroids have still shown to be very beneficial for short term pain relief for patients to improve their functional activities.

All in all, corticosteroids should be the last resort when it comes to relieving joint pain. Remember to Rest, Ice, Compress, and Elevate as your first measure when first experiencing any type of joint pain. Always be sure to consult your physical therapist before you take that final step towards a corticosteroid injection.


Discomfort and soreness are a part of life. What is not normal is living with pain. If you are still experiencing that pain, it's time to talk to your physical therapist or primary care physician.

Try to stay away from narcotics, injections and knife happy surgeons as a primary option for your treatment. There are no magic bullets, but majority of pain symptoms can be resolved with conservative measures like exercises, manual therapy and pain management.


  • Zuhair Haque, Exercise Specialist at Rehabon Physical Therapy. Zuhair enjoys basketball and he cannot wait to start the DPT program at North Central College in 2023. Zuhair has an extensive experience for working for multiple physical therapy/rehab organizations.

  • Irfan Ibrahim is an Owner/Physical Therapist at Rehabon Physical Therapy, Downers Grove IL 60515. He enjoys sunshine and rainbows with his three children. Loves hiking, biking and golfing but he has accepted to live with his mediocre skills. Questions??!! Email him: follow him on Facebook

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