Studies have shown that the widely common practice of steroid injections (very potent inhibitors of inflammation and healing) into joints for the treatment of arthritis pain are clinically beneficial and can provide significant temporary relief of debilitating symptoms. While the use of steroids has simply been accepted as being “safe and effective” has come under scrutiny in the last 10 years. There has not been any study published which has shown that steroid injections are actually SAFE for human musculoskeletal tissue – muscle, tendon, cartilage, bone – in larger doses.
Smaller doses, as used clinically, while seemingly harmless, have been found to cause tissue damage, especially after multiple injections over time, but on such a small scale that the benefits of pain relief have outweighed the risk of long term tissue damage. More recent data are suggesting that we should rethink the use of steroid injections in many situations. For instance, steroid injections in the shoulder have now been found to inhibit healing of rotator cuff repairs, even after a single injection within 12 months of the surgery. The repair failure rate approaches 50%!!
Now, researchers have proposed that the use of steroids actually speeds up the degenerative process when used to treat the symptoms of knee arthritis. In other words, the arthritis actually does get worse. Other authors disagree. Please click the Steroids remain controversial pdf to learn more.