Cortisone shots: are they safe and is there a limit to how many?


Nurse Director
Jun 8, 2007
The North
United Kingdom United Kingdom
P.S. Is it true that cortisone injections only last up to 3 months and you can only have 3 in a lifetime? Hope not :cry:
Well, if it is true that you can only have 3 in a lifetime, I'm in serious trouble because I must have already had around 20 and I'm soon to have more.

Of course it's not true. What is true is that it's best to have at least a 3 month interval between shots.

As for how long they last that's more to do with how long the effect lasts which can depend upon an awful lot of things:
the nature of the condition (some are more resistant than others)
how long you've had it
how extreme it was (chronic conditions are much more difficult to get a result from than recently developed ones)​

If the condition is resolved or improved by the cortisone, it might stay that way for weeks, months or even forever. Then again, it might not work at all.

In other words, it's another one of those "how long is a piece of string" questions I'm afraid.

Relating from my personal experience, most of the shots I had were for bilateral rotator cuff impingement pain meaning I had two at a time. Eventually it reared its ugly head again after a few months. But the effect from my last shots lasted me almost 2 years and I am about to have more. The shot I had for my trochanteric bursitis in January 2011 thus far seems to not only have resolved the condition totally but also the piriformis syndrome that was making my life a misery at the same time! It seems to me that this resolution is more complete than it has ever been for my shoulders but only time will tell.

What is this cortisone?
You do hear people bad-mouthing cortisone but that's mostly because of the bad press from abuse of anabolic steroids by body builders and such. Also steroids like prednisolone which is used long term for treating RA, IBS, asthma and these certainly can cause osteoporosis, AVN and various other problems.

But the stuff they use for this is neither of those kinds - it's a synthetic steroid called Methylprednisolone.

"Methylprednisolone decreases inflammation by acting within cells to prevent the release of certain chemicals that are important in the immune system. These chemicals are normally involved in producing immune and allergic responses. By decreasing the release of these chemicals in a particular area, inflammation is reduced. This can help control a wide number of disease states characterised by excessive inflammation." [LINK]

So this is a short acting steroid usually given with local anaesthetic such as lidocaine. The intention being that the lidocaine deals with the immediate pain and the steroid deals with the inflammation and residual pain.

Sure sometimes it doesn't work and other times it only works for a few days but there is never any guarantee it will work anyway. It's a 'try it and see' situation and always worth a shot! (pun intended! :th_heehee:)


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