Intra-Articular Joint Injections
An intra-articular joint injection is a common therapeutic procedure, which aims to reduce pain and inflammation in a joint from condition like arthritis. Joint inflammation is usually associated with a proliferation of white blood cells and reduction of blood flow into the joint. This results in a painful, swollen joint. Joint inflammation can be caused by a variety of conditions, such as osteoarthritis. (Journal of the Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. 2005. 13 (1). 37-46.)
Intra-articular joint injections are most commonly performed in the knee, hip, and shoulder, but they can be done in the costochondral joints (between ribs and breastbone), facets joints (between vertebrae in the spine) and joints in the hands and feet. This procedure involves the injection of corticosteroids into the affected joint. This can provide quick and long-lasting pain relief with very little risk of damaging the tendons, ligaments or nerves.
These joint injections are fairly safe and can provide long-term benefits. Normally, the pain relief lasts about 3-4 months. At that time, the procedure may be repeated if necessary. Studies have indicated that 3-4 intra-articular joint injections per year are well tolerated. (Arthritis Rheum. 2003. 48: 370-377)
Potential side effects from the steroid injection include menstrual irregularities, skin flushing, muscular fatigue, and gastrointestinal upset. Local side effects may include soreness at the site of injection, bruising, changes in skin pigmentation and infection. Infection is very rare and is reported in one out of every 10,000 injections. Patients are advised to refrain from excessive weight bearing activities for 24-48 hours after the injection.