Do Cortisone Injections Hurt?

What to Expect and Ways to Reduce the Pain

Person getting shot in upper arm.

Inside Creative House / Getty Images

If you have an upcoming cortisone injection, or shot, to help with pain and swelling due to inflammation, you may wonder if it will hurt. You may also want to know if there's anything you can do to make this procedure more comfortable.

Cortisone is a powerful medication that may be injected directly into the area of your body experiencing discomfort. These shots may be helpful for a variety of short or long-term conditions that impact the bones, joints, or muscles.

This article explores how painful cortisone shots may be, as well as where they tend to hurt the most. It will also discuss ways to manage the injection pain.

How Painful Are Cortisone Shots?

Shots vary in the amount of discomfort they may cause. Some factors that impact the level of pain a shot may cause include the location of the injection and the size of the needle. Not surprisingly, larger needles tend to cause more pain than smaller ones.

Where Do Cortisone Shots Hurt the Most?

Certain cortisone injections will hurt more than others based on their location. Injections into the palm of the hand and sole of the foot can be especially painful. Injections tend to hurt most when the cortisone is delivered to a small space.

Recap

Where the shot is injected and the size of the needle can impact how much pain you may feel. Injections given in the hand and sole of the foot tend to hurt the most.

What Are Some Ways to Deal With Injection Pain?

If you're worried about the pain from an injection, let your healthcare provider know. They may be able to reduce your discomfort.

  • Ask if they can use a smaller needle if possible. In some cases, it can be traded out. But, in others, like if the medication is very thick, it can't.
  • Ask if you can have a numbing agent. Numbing cream or spray applied to the skin can help reduce the feeling of the injection.
  • Avoid rushing. If you are extremely nervous, let your healthcare provider know. Sometimes having the procedure talked through may help you feel more in control of the situation.
  • Try to relax. Take slow, deep breaths. If possible, ask your healthcare provider if you can get the injection lying down. Try to remind yourself that this procedure will only be a few minutes long.

Infections are uncommon following a cortisone shot. However, call your healthcare provider if you develop a high fever that is over 100.4 F, have severe pain, increased swelling, a bloody discharge, or a deep red or purplish skin color.

How Long Do Cortisone Shot Side Effects Last?

While you may feel pain during the actual injection, there can also be discomfort afterwards. One of the most common side effects is called a cortisone flare, which is when pain increases in the area being treated. The cortisone flare may occur within hours or days after receiving a cortisone shot. 

While the pain will often decrease on its own, there are some effective ways to reduce the symptoms more quickly including:

Speak with your doctor before taking an NSAID, especially if you are currently taking other over-the-counter or prescription medication.

Recap

A common side effect of a cortisone shot is known as cortisone flare. This can cause increased pain to the area being treated. Resting, applying ice, and taking an NSAID may help.

Summary

Cortisone is an anti-inflammatory medication that may be given as an injection to treat pain and swelling. The size of the needle and the location of the injection can impact the level of pain and discomfort these shots may cause.

Keep in mind that there are ways to reduce the pain associated with these shots and it's best to speak with your doctor before the procedure if you're worried about it.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How quickly do you feel pain relief after a cortisone shot?

    In the hours immediately after the shot, pain may seem to decrease. This may be due to the use of numbing medication used during the injection. Pain relief is usually felt about a week after the cortisone shot.

  • How long does a cortisone shot last?

    Pain relief can least for weeks, but this can vary from person to person. Keep in mind, some individuals may need just one shot to experience relief, while others will need multiple injections.

  • How long does a cortisone shot procedure take?

    The shot appointment may take anywhere from five to 30 minutes.

Was this page helpful?
3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Injectable corticosteroids.

  2. Veritas Health. Cortisone injection risks and side effects.

  3. American Society for Surgery of the Hand. Cortisone shot.