The Shortcomings of Cortisone Treatments for Pain

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Cortisone injections are used for a host of things, perhaps most notably, really bad bouts of poison ivy. As an emergency intervention for allergic reactions, it has its uses. But cortisone shots are also standard treatment practice in degenerated joints, partially because it has expedient results, and partially because in the past there wasn’t much that was a whole lot better. More on that, later, though.

In recent years, with the development of regenerative therapies for damaged joints, knee pain, back pain, as an alternative to shoulder surgeries, etc, cortisone shots are falling behind in efficacy and comprehensiveness. But did you know that cortisone isn’t actually helping at all? In fact, it’s hurting the already-injured or diseased tissue even more.

How does Cortisone Work on Injuries?

A cortisone injection usually includes a corticosteroid as well as an analgesic. The solution is injected at the site of the damage, and might actually increase discomfort for about 2 days. After, patients report some extent of symptom relief for up to several months. Essentially, the corticosteroid is a concentrated shot of anti-inflammatories.

Why not just take anti-inflammatories orally? The reason cortisone shots are so much more effective than oral medication is because the anti-inflammatory all goes directly into the site of the damage. Oral anti-inflammatories spread their effects throughout the body. The strong and speedy results from cortisone shots are what makes them a preferred treatment for a host of painful musculoskeletal issues.

But is cortisone actually all good, no bad?


Why Cortisone Will Do More Harm than Good

Okay, yes, that cortisone shot you got last time the poison ivy spread to your eyes was necessary. And as we said, for allergic reactions, it’s a great intervention. But as far as a treatment for long-term healing of torn tendons, painful joints or damaged muscles, no way.

Complications that come with cortisone shots include:

  • Acne
  • Death of nearby bone
  • High blood pressure
  • High blood sugar
  • Insomnia
  • Osteoporosis
  • Tendon rupture, especially in Achilles tendonitis and plantar fasciitis
  • Thinning of the skin
  • Tissue damage, including cartilage and tendon weakness
  • Tissue death, when mixed with anesthetics like lidocaine
  • Weight gain

Notice that most of these complications are kind of the exact opposite of what a cortisone shot is supposed to do? Just like most traditional Western medicine, with cortisone shots you trade long term damage for quick pain relief, but risks outweigh results over time.

Regenerative Medicine Injections: A Better Solution to Holistic Healing

Cortisone isn’t the only medical intervention that’s barely invasive and relieves pain and inflammation. Regenerative therapies do all that and heal the injury, too.

Platelet-Rich-Plasma Treatments

PRP therapy is another injection treatment used for painful joints, torn tendons, back pain, and more. A small amount of blood is taken from the patient’s body. It is then placed in a centrifuge, which separates the platelets. This allows the creation of a super-concentrated plasma substance full of platelets and growth factors, which are the part of your blood that do the heavy lifting in healing.

The idea in platelet-rich-plasma treatments is that the rush of nutrient supplies to the injured area restart the body’s healing process and help it along. Patients consistently report positive results from PRP injections, and this regenerative treatment comes with none of the dangers of cortisone.


In prolotherapy, also called proliferation therapy, a natural, safe, non-active “irritant” is injected into the soft tissues at the site of disease/damage, usually dextrose. The idea is the introduction of this neutral substance will irritate the area in a non-damaging way, restarting the body’s healing process at the site. There are minimal risks involved, and patients often need fewer and fewer prolotherapy treatments over time as the site begins to heal.

Stem Cell Injections

The other major development in treating torn tendons and painful joints is stem cell therapy. In this type of regenerative treatment, stem cells are either sourced from the patient or from live-birth umbilical tissue voluntarily donated by mothers. Those stem cells are then injected into the injured tissue.

The idea of stem cell therapy is that these super cells secrete a concentration of growth factors at the site. These help guide the body’s healing program to create new, healthy cells where there are currently damaged ones. There are minimal risks associated with this type of restorative treatment, and clinical research consistently shows that stem cell therapy has boundless applications.

So next time you’re dealing with a chronic injury, a torn tendon, or arthritic pain, don’t take the suggestion of cortisone shots at face value; there’s danger lurking in that steroid-filled syringe. Instead, consult with a doctor of regenerative medicine at a health and wellness clinic dedicated to holistic healing. You have nothing to risk and everything to gain.

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