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How Many Steroid Shots are Safe in One Year?

2:43 PM, Nov 28, 2011   |    comments
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Jeannie Blaylock

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Here's what I've learned. My shoulders have been killing me. Just putting my bra on every morning shoots pain through me and I'm sick of it. So I asked an orthopaedic surgeon about the safety rules of steroid shots.

Dr. Richard Picerno, an orthopaedic surgeon at Jacksonville Orthopaedic Institute, ordered an X-ray for my shoulders.  Nothing showed up and he said that's typical for soft tissue injuries.

He thinks I have an overuse injury and the bicep tendon sheath running up to my shoulders is inflamed. Steroid injections can cure the inflammation, he said. 

So I started peppering him with questions because I've never had steroid shots before. And, yes, I've heard all sorts of things.

First of all, no, he said, I won't grow facial hair.

Got that out of the way.

Next, he said, it's crucial to be honest with your doctor about how many steroid shots you're getting into the same location of your body. Too many patients "doctor shop" and receive too many injections, which can break down the tendon, for example.

Picerno recommends no more than 3-4 cortisone or steroid shots into the same spot in the course of a year.

He said if that doesn't take care of the pain you might need an MRI. You may have something else wrong besides a soft tissue inflammation - a tear, for example.

He said overall steroid injections these days are safe. They are different than oral steroids and don't cause systemic problems; they are localized, in other words.

If you stay with three to four injections in a calendar year you should not have any trouble with addiction, he said.

Be warned, though. The more inflammation, the more painful the shot.

First Coast News

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