Cortisone? Should I give it a shot?

Jun 19, 2018

This is a question we often hear in the clinic. It is a treatment that can be recommended frequently by your doctor or surgeon. So what does a cortisone injection actually do?

Cortisone is a steroid shot that decreases the inflammation in an injured area. This can help decrease pain and optimize the environment for healing. The injection is used to get high amounts of the medication in the inflamed area with minimal side effects to the rest of your body.


The pain is usually decreased after a few days and most patients feel pretty good; this is the time that rehabilitation needs to take place. Although the pain dissipates, the causes such as poor posture, repetitive loading, and poor body mechanics, are still taking place.

Physiotherapy will help you train your body during this optimal time to get to the source of the problem. The Physiotherapists at each of our clinic locations are able to set up a specific exercise program suited for your needs to ensure that you are able to return to function safely before and after you receive your injection.


There are some side effects of the cortisone shot as well, which include softening of cartilage and weakening of tendons at the injection site. This usually occurs in patients who receive several steroid injections. With the proper rehabilitation and strengthening the first time around, a second injection can be avoided.

A study (Coombes et al, 2013) in Australia looked at the effectiveness of cortisone alone vs cortisone with physiotherapy. Cortisone shots alone had positive effects from weeks 8-12, while those who had physio along with the shot had positive effects lasting for 3 years and made a full recovery from their chronic tennis elbow.

Another study (Sarifakioglu, 2016) compared cortisone alone vs physio alone in patients with knee pain. Those who only had cortisone reported positive and better outcomes in the first 3 months, but had to return for more shots which decreased the strength of the cartilage in the knee joint. Those who had physical therapy alone had better long-term effects and reported increased function.

Come visit one of the physiotherapists before and after a cortisone shot to get the best results and to get back into action. To book an appointment, call 780-458-8505 or email


Coombes BK, Bisset L, Brooks P, Khan A, Vicenzino B. Effect of Corticosteroid Injection, Physiotherapy, or Both on Clinical Outcomes in Patients With Unilateral Lateral EpicondylalgiaA Randomized Controlled Trial. JAMA. 2013;309(5):461–469. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.129

Sarifakioglu B, Afsar SI, Yalbuzdag SA, Ustaömer K, Bayramoğlu M. Comparison of the efficacy of physical therapy and corticosteroid injection in the treatment of pes anserine tendino-bursitis. Journal of Physical Therapy Science. 2016;28(7):1993-1997. doi:10.1589/jpts.28.1993.


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