Cortisone to the wrist

I’ve had some problems with my wrist, or rather, tendons in my wrist, for a couple of months. Stiffness and pain. This week, it got dramatically worse, to the point of constant pain; I can’t really use my left hand for much of anything*, and it aches all the time.

My doctor is going to refer me to an orthopedic doctor, who she says will most likely give me a cortisone shot into the offending tendon, which she says will bring me nearly immediate relief.


  • Has anyone here done this/had this done to thier wrist? I’ve heard of steriod shots to the spine, but not wrist.

  • Is this a ‘cure’, or yet another try at relief of the symptoms for a while, and the problem will return?

Disclaimer: you ANA doctor, that’s fine. I’m just looking for shared experiences anyone who’s dealt with this sort of thing.
*I actually couldn’t press the button on my key fob to unlock my car with that hand today. Ow!

Not me, but a friend. She had a couple of cortisone injections in a wrist and that helped for awhile (several months). Eventually she had carpal tunnel surgery.

Thanks, AuntiePam. I should probably have mentioned that this does not appear to be a carpal tunnel problem, at least according to my GP and an occupational therapist. Which doesn’t mean its not a chronic problem, no idea.

Yep, had it done three separate times in the past two years. I wouldn’t say the relief was immediate; it was a bit sore from the shot for the rest of that day, but the next day it did feel a good bit better. The shot itself is unpleasant but not unbearable. A stick and a burn followed by a feeling of pressure in the joint. More uncomfortable than having it done to the knee, but not as bad as the elbow (so I’ve been told). I was able to drive myself home afterward.

It wasn’t a cure for me, but I found out two days ago that the cartilage in my wrist is torn, so my only cure will be surgery :frowning: . I hope that the shot brings you some relief!

My 12-year-old daughter just had this done last week for some pain she’s had for several months, following healing of a fracture at the same site. The symptom was pain in the wrist especially when bending the hand backwards. The doc said that was a textbook symptom for a ganglionic cyst. What happens is this gets in the way of the tendon and gets inflamed and swells, which makes it get even more in the way, etc. The cortisone shot was uncomfortable but she didn’t make a peep. Her wrist was pretty sore for about two days, but now a week later the original pain is gone.

The cortisone reduces swelling, which can give the tissue enough of a rest to heal up and often the problem never returns, but not guaranteed.

Of course, your problem could be totally different.

My dad got a cortisone shot to his shoulder a little over a year ago. He’d had some severe pain in his shoulder, to the point that he couldn’t lie flat on his back. From the way my mom described it, getting the shot was really no fun (the needle just kept going in and in and in), but once it was given, he felt immediately better.

By the time the shot wore off, his shoulder had healed, and he was all better.

I’ve gotten a cortisone shot (I think that’s what it was) for a three-day sinus headache, but they gave it to me in my butt. It wasn’t that bad of a shot - bigger than a vaccination, smaller than a penicillin shot. After a five minute pause, my sinuses suddenly shriveled up, dumped their load of mucus down my throat, and did not bother me for six months.

IANAD but every instance of a cortisone injection I’ve heard of was given at the site of inflammation or swelling and not for systemic treatment. I have never heard of a cortisone shot in the butt. (The needle on my daughter’s wrist was long and skinny and went in pretty deep. She thought it was going to come out the other side :eek:) I’m also not sure cortisone takes effect in a matter of a few minutes. Maybe it was some other steroid? Did you have to follow up the shot with a course of pills?

You might have the same thing I’ve had on-and-off for the last few years. It’s called DeQuervain’s syndrome. My doctor referred me to a hand specialist who gave me a shot. The shot itself hurt a lot, but the previous pain went away immediately. I then had to wear a brace on my hand and wrist for 8 weeks, 24/7, except when showering. The brace keeps the hand from turning to the side, and keep the thumb from extending too much. At the end of 8 weeks I was cured . . . for about 9 months, when it started hurting again. Another shot, another brace. Now, when I feel occasional pain, I wear the brace for a day or two. The most crucial thing is to wear the brace when you’re sleeping, since you have no control over the position of your hand then.

Many shots into a joint are a combo of a steroid and a numbing agent like lidocaine. The Lido works immediately and the steroid’s full effect takes several hours.

I had Dequervain’s tendonitis and it took two injections to fix it. I found the injections exquisitely painful BUT the pain started to go away immediately.

The pain was so bad with the tendonitis I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Systemic cortisone injections are prescribed frequently. IM or IV. Bad allergies, severe urticaria, anaphylaxis, & moderately severe asthmathic episodes are all common reasons for doing so.

The fastest that steroids will work is usually 3 to 4 hours.

Steroids are not harmless medications, though. A joint should not be injected for trivial reasons. Repeated doses in the same spot may cause scarring, tissue atrophy, and raise the risk for infection.

One’s doctor should help one decide whether cortisone is a good idea.

What they said. I had DeQuervain’s tendonitis when I had a newborn baby. My doctor diagnosed it within thirty seconds, then got the cortisone/novocane shot, and my pain was gone within a few hours. The pain of the shot was intense but short. I have not had a recurrence, and this was in about February or March of 2005.

Hey, Qadgop, thanks for dropping in. FWIW, this problem, in various stages of hurt, has been ongoing since mid-July.

This exactly what I was wondering about – I don’t want to do this if its only symptom treatment, and the problem will return, and the rtatment may cause problems later. I’d almost rather wear a brace for some number weeks and wait for it to get better on its own.*

My main concerns are:

  • How do we know that the tendon being injected is really the problem? My hand/wrist hurts in a lot of different places right now. Isn’t this a really complex area to be blindly sticking injections into?

  • Is it possible that this shot may make things worse in the long run? I’m really fond of having two useful hands, but I can wait for a while if need be, if this shot isn’t really a ‘cure’.

Re: that article posted about DeQuervain’s syndrome – I don’t think I’ve ever been able to twist my wrist, either hand, into the shape of “Finkelstein’s test”.

*Well… I say that this morning, when the pain isn’t as bad; I may say something else on a bad day, such as yesterday.

Good questions to ask your doc. If the doc is confident that it’s de Quervain’s, a one-time shot of cortisone is not at all an unreasonable trial. Benefits outweigh risks in my opinion, for people who have had signficant symptoms for a long time. Splinting and anti-inflammatory pills such as Ibuprofen are reasonable alternatives, but every year people bleed to death from taking ibuprofen too.

And the shot would eliminate the active problem: inflammation in the tendon. It puts out the fire. It may not address the mechanical problems that started the fire in the first place, but once the fire is out, it’s easier to get at those issues.

Again, consult your doc. The above analogies are not 100% correlative with the actual situations.

Qadgop, thanks much for the risk assessment, appreciated. I will indeed consider this, but cast a skeptical eye as needed.

Wha? I hadn’t heard about this before. Really? No need to reply, but I’m running out the door (a parent thing) and must google later.

Thanks again!

No kidding? Does sinus inflammation respond sooner or did I have some sort of placebo/idiopathic response?

And, you made me look up urticaria. Which is hives. You doctors and your fancy words.

Ibuprofen is an NSAID, like aspirin, and it can cause gastro-intestinal bleeding. Apparently, other than an upset stomach, it doesn’t really hurt, and if you don’t notice a change in your stool or the symptoms of anemia, you can lose a significant portion of your blood volume that way.

For some reason, I read this several times over as, “When I was a newborn baby.” I was very confused.

Me too. I was wondering at first how she remembered how quickly the pain went away.

I have injections done three times a year for Carpal Tunnel and I swear by them. However, they know what my condition actually is so I suppose that makes a difference.

By one estimate, NSAIDS cause 16,500 deaths per year.