Cortisone Injections - Are They Just Too Risky for Joint Pain?
If you suffer from joint pain, it is likely that your doctor has recommended steroid injections.
For many, this type of treatment may sound like a miraculous cure, but wherever steroids are concerned, you should always tread cautiously. You may feel better for a short period of time, but the pain may return. Worse still – it is possible that when it does, it will be worse than ever.
Different types of steroids
There are two major types of steroids: anabolic and catabolic.
Anabolic steroids are the kind used by athletes or weightlifters to help them build muscle and gain strength, endurance, and put the body in an active metabolic state.
Catabolic steroids (also known as corticosteroids) go to work quickly to fight inflammation in your body. They work like the hormone cortisol, a substance that is produced naturally in the adrenal glands. Cortisol keeps your immune system from making substances that cause inflammation – which is how and why catabolic steroids make you feel better (for a while).
Unfortunately, they come with many unwanted risks and complications, some quite serious. For this reason, they are never recommended for long-term use.
Major Risks of high-dose corticosteroid injections:
- Steroids are damaging to cartilage cells.
- Steroids can kill stem cells. Stem cells are the key to regeneration and repair within the body, so it is counterintuitive to try and heal an injury with something that may actually prevent the body’s natural healing processes from working as they should.
- Steroids can weaken and rupture tendons. Studies show that repeated steroid injections can lead to ruptured tendons.
Additional Complications of cortisone shots can include:
- Joint infection. Such infections can be painful and could cause irreparable damage to the joint.
- Nerve damage. Permanent nerve damage can be painful or it can cause you to be numb in the localized area. When this occurs, extra medication may be needed, though there is little proof that it actually helps.
- Thinning of skin and soft tissue around the injection site. This is a common and irreversible side-effect of long-term steroid use.
- Temporary flare of pain and inflammation in the joint.
- Osteoporosis, in other words, a thinning of nearby bone.
- Whitening or lightening of the skin around the injection site.
While steroids may make you feel better in the short term, they can actually slow healing and make the joint damage worse in the long run. You may have pain relief today, but the pain may come back even stronger in a few months!
Risks of repeated steroid injections
Because there are so many negative side effects, steroids are typically prescribed for as short a time as possible. Orthopedists are very cautious about injecting an arthritic joint with steroids more than once or twice.
Epidural injections can be given several times, but usually not more than three times per year. These steroids have a short half-life of only a few weeks or months. They do not cure the problem, but they can take away pain caused by inflammation for a short time.
Doctors may realize the long-term damage of steroid injections, but unfortunately, they don’t often have better solutions to offer. Patients are frustrated and in severe pain, but they don’t have much choice. Insurance will often cover the injection, so it is easy to agree to this treatment, even though it may do more damage than good.
Why stem cell injections are better than steroid injections
A stem cell injection is a completely different type of treatment – in fact, you might say it’s like night and day when compared to steroid injections.
- Stem cell therapy improves the body’s natural ability to heal – rather than suppressing it, which is what steroid injections do.
- Stem cell injections utilize your own cells to regenerate new tissue and to boost your body’s innate systems in order to reduce inflammation.
This allows for the potential to actually heal the injured joint rather than just temporarily reduce the pain, which is what steroid injections do. Given the choice between stem cell therapy over steroid injections, the decision should be easy!
Risks of stem cell injections vs. steroid injections
While the risks associated with steroid injections are serious, stem cell therapy carries virtually no side-effects whatsoever. Since your doctor uses cells from your own body, there is no chance of adverse effects. The potential to heal the injury permanently is a very real possibility.
If you would like to learn more about stem cell therapy or find out whether you are a good candidate, set up a consultation today (512) 213-1668.