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Shoulder Injections: Frequently Asked Questions

What is steroid injection for shoulder pain?

It is a simple, non-invasive, non-surgical procedure that relieves pain in the shoulder and arm caused by arthritis, injury or disorder. The skilled physicians at NJ Pain Care Specialists have performed it many, many times with great success.

The steroid injections can be used for both diagnostic and therapeutic purposes. For example, to help diagnose or treat rotator cuff disorders, your doctor injects a shot of anesthetic into the problem shoulder. If the anesthetic relieves the pain and you can move your shoulder freely, the diagnosis is most likely some form of rotator cuff disease. Your doctor may then inject steroids into the area to reduce swelling and inflammation. But if your shoulder is still weak after the anesthetic has been injected, the problem is likely a tear in the rotator cuff.

When is steroid injection used?

After other treatment options – rest, ice/heat, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and/or physical therapy – have been tried and failed to provide desired relief, we may recommend steroid injection to relieve your pain and inflammation.

What happens during the procedure?

  • After the area of the shoulder that requires treatment is sterilized, a local anesthetic is administered to numb the tissue. Many patients have told us they were surprised that the injection was much less painful than they had feared, and that for most of them it felt about the same as a routine immunization
  • Your experienced physician carefully guides a needle into the shoulder joint and may utilize a real-time fluoroscope x-ray device and contrast dye to ensure the needle’s proper placement
  • With the needle in position, the physician injects the mix of anesthetic and steroid medication – the anesthetic providing immediate pain relief, and the steroid medication reducing both the pain and inflammation over an extended period of time
  • As explained earlier, at this point, your physician can usually determine the cause of your pain – for example, a rotator cuff disease, or a rotator cuff tear

How will I feel after the injection?

After the anesthetic wears off – usually in 4-6 hours – you may feel minor discomfort that could last a few days. After two-to-three days, the steroid will take effect and begin to relieve the inflammation and pain and allow more movement of the shoulder.

Will I have any restrictions on the day of the procedure?

Before you leave the facility, we might instruct you to:

  • Protect the injection area for a day or two
  • No heavy lifting
  • Apply ice to the injection site as needed
  • Watch for signs of infection 

How many shoulder injections might I need?

It’s possible you may require 3 or more injections to get the relief you (and we) are looking for.

Is steroid injection for shoulder pain safe?

Any adverse reactions are usually mild and short-lived. The most common were pain at the injection site, facial flushing, irregular menstrual bleeding and local skin lesions/reactions.

To discuss your situation, or to make an appointment for an evaluation by Dr. Bram, call NJ Pain Care Specialists at 732-720-0247. For more information, please visit https://njpcs.org/procedures/neck-back-spine/

About The Author

Picture of Dr. Harris Bram, MD, DABPM

Dr. Harris Bram, MD, DABPM

Dr. Harris Bram is an Interventional Pain Management Specialist in New Jersey. He is a graduate of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. His postgraduate training in anesthesia was performed at Hahnemann University Hospital, where he sub-specialized in cardiac anesthesia. He completed his pain management fellowship at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, PA.

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