Joint pain treatment (joint injections)

Our expert teams offer injections for inflamed, swollen joints in a quick procedure to help ease chronic joint pain and stiffness.

Sometimes also called

  • Corticosteroid injections
  • Hydrocortisone injections
  • Intra-articular injections
  • Steroid injections

At a glance

  • Typical hospital stay
    1-2 hours

  • Procedure duration
    20 minutes

  • Type of anaesthetic
    Sometimes local is used

  • Available to self-pay?
    Yes

  • Covered by health insurance?
    Yes

Why Spire?

  • Fast access to diagnostic tests and scans
  • Wide range of treatments offered
  • Transparent pricing
  • 98% of our patients are likely to recommend us to their family and friends

What is a joint injection?

Joint injections are a quick procedure to inject hydrocortisone (a type of steroid) directly into an inflamed, swollen joint. Damage or injury to a joint can cause chronic joint pain and make it harder to enjoy everyday activities such as:

  • Driving
  • Playing sport
  • Walking around easily

Conditions that may cause joint pain include:

A joint injection could benefit you by reducing inflammation and swelling in the affected joint, especially if you're experiencing:

After a joint injection, your pain should improve and you can move your joint more easily, allowing you to get back to your usual routine.

Before recommending joint injections, your GP will ask about your general health and may check your blood pressure and blood sugar, as hydrocortisone can raise these. You won’t have to wait long to find out if joint injections are right for you, and if you have more than one painful joint you can discuss whether to have them treated at the same time.

Find your nearest Spire hospital

Almost all our hospitals offer joint injections and have teams of specially trained doctors who specialise in these procedures.

Spire Nottingham Hospital

How joint injections works

Joint injections contain hydrocortisone, a type of steroid called a corticosteroid, which suppresses the chemicals that cause inflammation.

A specially trained GP or consultant carries out an intra-articular injection where the hydrocortisone is injected directly into your joint. This helps the treatment work faster and reduces the risk of any side effects.

Your doctor may use a local anaesthetic to numb the injection site so you don’t feel any pain from the injection itself.

Some people find their joint pain improves hours after their injection, but it can take a few days. You can expect the effects to last for a few weeks or up to a year, depending on the type of injection you have. Your doctor will discuss how much hydrocortisone you need, depending on how severe your chronic pain is and your general health.

Your operation: what to expect

How long do joint injections take?

Joint injections usually take around 20 minutes. They may take longer if your doctor needs to perform an ultrasound scan to help target the inflammation precisely.

Anaesthetics

Before the procedure, you may be given a sedative, so you feel very calm. Your doctor may numb the area by injecting some local anaesthetic into your joint. Sometimes they may combine the anaesthetic and hydrocortisone in the same syringe, so you only need one injection.

Pain after joint injections

You're likely to feel some pain afterwards from the injection itself. If you had a local anaesthetic during the treatment, this will help with the pain but will wear off after a couple of hours. You can take over-the-counter painkillers for pain management, such as:

  • Ibuprofen
  • Paracetamol

It’s a good idea to arrange to have a lift home, in case numbness from the local anaesthetic or discomfort from the injection makes it difficult to drive.

Any discomfort or bruising you feel around your joint afterwards should go after a few days, and you should be free of the chronic pain caused by your inflamed joint.

Your recovery: what to expect

After your injection, it’s best to rest your joint for a couple of days until any pain from the injection has gone. Once the hydrocortisone has taken effect, the pain and stiffness in your joint should improve. Your doctor will advise on when to return to work if you have a strenuous job.

You could benefit from physiotherapy once you're pain-free and can exercise your injected joint more easily. Your physiotherapist can show you exercises that will help to strengthen your joint.

Risks and complications

Most people have no complications from their joint injection, but as with most medical procedures, side effects are possible.

In rare cases, hydrocortisone from your injected joint can reach the bloodstream. This is more likely if you have repeated injections. If this happens, there's a very small risk of developing more serious side effects such as:

  • Depression
  • High blood pressure
  • High blood sugar
  • Infection
  • Osteoporosis
  • Thinning skin
  • Weight gain

Your doctor will talk these through with you so you can make an informed choice about the benefits and any risks of your course of treatment, and will monitor you throughout.

At Spire hospitals, your safety is our top priority. We have high standards of quality control, equipment and cleanliness and an ongoing system of review and training for our medical teams.

Treatment and recovery timeline

Although everybody’s different and you should always follow your consultant’s advice, here’s a typical recovery timeline for joint injections:

View full timeline

1-2 hours

Leave hospital

1-2 days

Rest at home

2 days

Begin moving and exercising your joint

A few days

Start to feel benefits

A few weeks to a year

May still feel the effects

The treatment described on this page may be adapted to meet your individual needs, so it's important to follow your healthcare professional's advice and raise any questions that you may have with them.

Get in touch

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