Key words: cortisone, corticosteroid, Medrol
Corticosteroids are a family of medication. There are many different corticosteroids that naturally occur in the body, and are also available as oral or injectable medication. The most famous, 'cortisone', is actually not in use anymore, and has been replaced by more effective medications.
Corticosteroids have significant value in the treatment of many Orthopaedic conditions. Corticosteroids are potent anti-inflammatory medicines. They reduce the bodies 'inflammatory response' to injury. Signs of inflammation may be swelling, pain, warmth, and stiffness. While these are normal responses by the body to injury, and are essential in the normal healing process, the inflammation itself can, at times, slow down the recovery process. By giving a patient a corticosteroid, the body's own inflammatory response to an injury is decreased.
This means that corticosteroids can reduce some of the symptoms following an injury, especially swelling and pain. This can be helpful if the swelling and pain are interfering with recovery. The corticosteroid mediation itself usually doesn't heal an injury; it just allows the body to do it with fewer symptoms. One must be careful about using corticosteroids to simply mask symptoms. This may be appropriate is the diagnosis is known, and there are no other good options. If masking symptoms will make a condition worse, or harder to treat later on, then their use is inappropriate. It's as if your car was making a loud noise from the engine. Corticosteroids are like turning up the radio and rolling up the window: you just don't hear it. Now if you know what's wrong, and there's not much to do, then that is appropriate. If you don't know what's wrong, you might be making things worse.
Corticosteroids, like all medication, have side effects. Injections may be painful for a day or two. In dark skinned individuals, a corticosteroid injection can rarely cause a small area of skin lightening, or depigmentation. Corticosteroid injections are contraindicated in certain areas of the body, like the Achilles tendon, where it can actually cause rupture of the tendon. Regardless of location, repeated multiple corticosteroid injections are probably not a good idea. Nevertheless, used appropriately, corticosteroids can be extremely effective in treating certain conditions.