Injection with corticosteroids.
Physiotherapy plays an important role as part of the rehabilitation and treatment of various injuries. The main goal of Physical Therapy is to restore movement function. This often already reduces pain symptoms. A question we frequently hear in our practice is whether an injection of corticosteroids are effective as support for the recovery of the relevant injury. Corticosteroids are medications that can reduce inflammation in the body and in some cases can complement physical therapy treatment.
What are corticosteroids?
Corticosteroids are synthetic drugs that mimic certain hormones produced by the adrenal glands. A human has 2 adrenal glands that are located on top of the kidneys. In particular, the function of the adrenal glands is to produce hormones. These hormones affect stress and ensure proper blood pressure in our body. The adrenal glands also play a role in producing sex hormones.
Corticosteroids can be prescribed for various complaints. Complaints that we as physical therapists see such as muscle, tendon and joint complaints or a bursitis. But also consider conditions such as asthma, skin conditions and more systemic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. Corticosteroids have an anti-inflammatory effect. So the drug helps to reduce pain and inflammation in the body. In relation to physical therapy, we see that when symptoms do not decrease over a long period of time this form of medication can help to speed up the recovery process. When this is the right time depends on how long an injury has been present. Read here more on recovery time from injuries.
The effect of corticosteroids
Corticosteroids contribute to injury recovery in the following ways:
Reducing the inflammatory response
In particular, an inflammatory response is characterized by pain and swelling. When the sensitivity of the injury persists for a long time, it affects rehabilitation too much. An example in this is osteoarthritis symptoms or a tendinitis. We know that muscle strength training is effective in treating these types of symptoms. But when the pain prevents movement, a temporary solution such as an injection of corticosteroids can help. As the symptoms subside, the right kind of therapy can be started. Thus, work can be done to restore function such as muscle power, mobility and coordination without provoking symptoms in an unpleasant way.
Considerations and precautions
So corticosteroids can certainly provide a benefit when the natural recovery process deviates. But as with any medication, there can be possible side effects. Here with be said that side effects with corticosteroids occur especially with long-term use. With a muscle, tendon or joint injury, corticosteroids are often administered once, at most twice over an extended period of time.
Most common side effects with long-term use:
- weight gain
- immunosuppressive effect
When using corticosteroids for a long time, it is important to be carefully checked by a medical doctor about the health risk. Again in most cases, this would involve a chronic condition such as rheumatoid arthritis or copd. The use of corticosteroids is determined based on a specific condition and the degree of symptoms, not everyone necessarily benefits from their use.
Corticosteroids can be a valuable adjunct to physical therapy in those cases where pain and the inflammatory response impede recovery to such an extent. It is always the case that the use of corticosteroids, even in the short term, should be carefully considered and always consulted with a medical specialist or physician. When properly supervised with long-term use, the possible effects of any side effects can be well considered. It is also important to realize that some injuries simply take time. The success of physical therapy depends in part on several individual factors and the expertise of the physical therapist.
Owner Physio Vital
Physical therapist, MSC. Manuel therapy
With a solid foundation in scientific knowledge, Ruben combines the latest insights with his practical experience to ensure the best results. As owner of Physio Fitaal, Ruben has created a patient-centered environment that works with innovative techniques and a data-driven approach. Whether you are an elite athlete looking to return to the field or someone recovering from knee surgery, Ruben will guide you to a full recovery, with attention to your individual needs and goals.
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