Tendons are very strong, fibrous tissues that attach your muscles to your bones and act to support your joints. Sometimes tendons can become inflamed or damaged due to overuse such as suffering a repetitive strain injury or can be damaged during a fall, a physical accident, or from a sporting injury.
Steroid injections are commonly used for short term treatment of tendinopathy, a condition where the tendon becomes torn or sore from inflammation. Many sportspeople will use steroid injections to help relieve pain from sporting injuries that are preventing them from training or performing their sport.
While their strong immediate pain-relieving effects are a welcome relief to patients, they are not a cure and it is worth identifying the cause of the tendon pain and avoiding it to prevent further issues.
The most common tendinopathy sites are the elbow and the rotator cuff in the shoulder, but tendonitis can affect any joint in the body.
Administering steroid injections can help to alleviate pain in the short term for around four weeks, for an intermediate term of around 26 weeks, and long term lasting around one year, depending on the condition and severity of symptoms.
What sort of tendon conditions can be helped
Many doctors will prescribe corticosteroid injections to relieve pain from tennis elbow, rotator cuff tendinopathy, and tendon pain caused by overuse of the knees and feet during fast-paced, repetitive move sports such as squash, running and tennis.
It is also advised that the patient undergoes some physiotherapy to help stimulate the tendon to encourage healing and to strengthen the supporting muscles around the affected joint.
Generally speaking, tendon injuries are not simple to treat, and one tendon injury can differ greatly from another even if it involves the same tendon. However, patients can benefit from cortisone injections that will provide short-term pain relief.
Your doctor should be recommending steroid joint injections in combination with physical therapy as part of the treatment process to help relieve pain, heal the tendon injury and make it stronger.
Diagnosing and treating tendonitis
Before you can undergo any steroid joint injections, you may need to have an ultrasound scan to assess the severity of your condition and to pinpoint the best place to direct an injection.
With tendinopathy, injecting directly into the centre of the inflammation will have maximum pain-relieving benefits. However, depending on which joint is affected, you may not need an ultrasound scan.
Your doctor may give you a local anaesthetic to numb the injection site to reduce the discomfort of having the injection. The procedure is very quick and your pain symptoms will be relieved very swiftly, usually within a few minutes.
Once the local anaesthetic has worn off you may feel a bit of soreness around the injection site, but this will usually subside after about 24 hours of having the injection.
It can help to wear loose-fitting clothes when attending your consultation and treatment so you can feel more comfortable during the examination and treatment. Following your treatment, you may be asked to rest for 10 to 15 minutes before leaving the clinic. This is to make sure you don’t have any reaction to the treatment.