Please note: This information was current at the time of publication but now may be out of date. This handout provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. 

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Am Fam Physician. 2002;66(2):290

What is a joint and soft tissue injection?

A joint and soft tissue injection is a shot, with a needle, into a joint (such as the knee) or a soft tissue space (such as the space between a muscle and a bone). Doctors can use a needle to take out fluid or to put in medicine. Pain relievers, such as lidocaine, and anti-inflammatory medicines, such as corticosteroids, are the medicines most often used in injections.

Your doctor may also do this procedure to diagnose a problem. Your doctor uses these injections to diagnose or treat many different conditions, including arthritis, gout, rheumatism, tendonitis, joint swelling, bursitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and plantar fasciitis.

What will I feel during the injection?

Your doctor may give you a local anesthetic (a numbing medicine) before the injection so you feel very little pain. The pain caused by your condition will usually go away a short time after you get the shot.

Are there any complications?

These injections are usually very safe; however, there is always the chance of unwanted side effects. These side effects include tendon rupture, infection, loss of skin color, and thinning of the skin at the injection site. Your doctor will try to make sure these side effects do not happen. You should remind your doctor of any medicine allergies you have.

What should I do after the procedure?

Your doctor will put a bandage on the injection site and tell you when you can take it off. You should keep that area clean. Your doctor may tell you to put ice on the area. Your doctor will give you instructions about activity and rest. Call your doctor right away if you notice redness or swelling.

What should I expect after the procedure?

In most cases, you can expect pain relief and improvement of your symptoms. If your doctor injects a corticosteroid, you may have some pain at the injection site for a day or two. This is a normal reaction to the medicine. You can relieve this pain by holding ice on the area for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, several times a day. You can also take an oral pain reliever that your doctor recommends.

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