What are the pros and cons of corticosteroids for treating joint pain?

Scott D. Martin, MD
Orthopedic Surgery
Corticosteroids, such as prednisone, reduce the body's ability to generate an inflammatory reaction. They relieve pain by reducing inflammation. Corticosteroids are credited with both treating and causing knee and hip problems. When first introduced in the 1950s, corticosteroids were regarded as miracle drugs because of the dramatic effect on patients with active rheumatoid arthritis, many of whom were able to literally throw down their crutches. But within a few years, the devastating effects of long-term use of oral corticosteroids became apparent: bone weakening, compression fractures of the back, diabetes, increased susceptibility to infections, cataracts, hypertension, and other health problems. Most side effects occur when these drugs are taken orally, but repeated corticosteroid injections into a joint can result in thinning of the cartilage and weakening of the ligaments. In the short term, though, corticosteroids can sometimes provide quick and dramatic relief.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.