What are the Side Effects of Cortisone Injections for Back Pain?

Does your back ache whenever you try to get up? Or does it hurt when you bend down? Either way, back pains are a big nuisance and can be a cause of worry in some cases. However, there are already various ways to treat back pains. Today, cortisone injections are one of the most common ways of treating back pains. But like most medications, cortisone injections come with a price.

Cortisone injections have side-effects, just like quite a number of other drugs. Then what are these? What are the side effects of cortisone injections for back pain?

What is cortisone?

Cortisone is a steroid hormone. The cortisone used in the injections is the synthetic form of the cortisol (hydrocortisone), a hormone naturally occurring in the body. Cortisol is secreted by the adrenal glands and has many important functions. Cortisone has the ability to suppress certain parts of the immune system to decrease the inflammation of the affected area. This in turn reduces the pain in that area. Cortisone also affects the metabolism of glucose and protein.

Cortisone injections are the introduction of the synthetic cortisol into an affected area with the use of a needle and syringe.

What are the side effects of cortisone injections for back pain?

Side effects of cortisone injection for back pain are quite rare. These are, in fact, much less likely to occur and much less prevalent compared to the side effects of oral steroid medications.

There are certain types of side effects. One type is called the systemic side effects. And this type of effects is observed with cortisone injections. Systemic side effects are a result of a small amount of the cortisone entering into the bloodstream that affects your entire body. Below are the systemic side effects of cortisone injections:
• Facial Flushing. Patients who have had cortisone injections may experience flushing. This reaction is much more common among women than in men. This side effect is seen in about 15 % of patients and can be observed within a few hours after injection and may last for several days.
• Elevated Blood Sugar Level. This is systematic side effect is common to diabetic patients. Cortisone can cause a temporary increase in the blood sugar level and so patients with diabetes should be careful and check their blood sugar level often.

Another type of side effects is the local side effects. These side effects are the effects observed or experienced only in one specific area of the body. The local side effects of cortisone injections, like systemic side effects, are rare. Below are the local side effects of cortisone injections:
• Pain. Despite the anti-inflammatory effects of cortisone, some patients may still feel certain discomfort. Some also feel an increase in pain 24 to 48 hours after being injected with the cortisone. This, however, usually subdues quickly. An ice pack and other ant-inflammatory medications may be used to aid in treating the discomfort.
• Tendon Rupture. Cortisone can weaken tendons and so it can lead to tendon rupture. This is one reason why doctors may limit the number of cortisone injections.
• Infection. An infection can occur whenever there is a break or an opening in the skin. And using a needle to puncture your skin and inject the cortisone, the skin can be broken, leaving an opening for germs and other foreign bodies to enter. However, this is not to be a cause of worry if the needle and syringe are properly sterilized as well as the skin.
• Skin Pigment Changes. Patients with the darker skin are observed to develop lighter skin around the injection site. This is not a cause of alarm as this is not harmful.
• Loss of Fatty Tissue. High doses of cortisone can be detrimental to some tissues in the body. If injected into fatty tissue, fat atrophy may develop, which leads to loss of fatty tissues. Dimpling of the skin as well as thinning out of the fat can be observed in the area injected with cortisone.

Cortisone injections, just like most drugs and treatments, have their own risks and side effects involved. Cortisone is a powerful treatment for quite a number of orthopedic problems. And cortisone injections are safe.

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