The Science Behind the Shot: How Steroid Injections Relieve Shoulder Pain


If you’ve ever experienced shoulder pain, you know just how debilitating it can be. Everyday tasks like lifting a grocery bag or reaching for something on a high shelf suddenly become daunting challenges. Fortunately, there’s a ray of hope in the form of steroid injections!

Understanding Shoulder Pain

Before we dive into the science of a steroid injection in the shoulder, it’s essential to understand why shoulder pain occurs in the first place. Several factors can contribute to shoulder pain, including:

  1. Inflammation: Inflammation of the tendons, ligaments, or bursae in the shoulder can lead to pain and limited mobility.
  2. Arthritis: Conditions like osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis can cause wear and tear on the shoulder joint, resulting in pain and stiffness.
  3. Injuries: Accidents, falls, or overuse injuries can damage the structures in the shoulder, leading to pain and discomfort.
  4. Repetitive Motion: Certain occupations or activities that require repetitive shoulder movements can strain the muscles and tendons, causing pain.

Steroid Injections: How Do They Work?

Here’s how they work to relieve shoulder pain:

  1. Reducing Inflammation: Corticosteroids have potent anti-inflammatory properties. When injected into the affected area of the shoulder, they suppress the body’s immune response, reducing inflammation. This reduction in inflammation is key to alleviating pain.
  2. Pain Relief: By reducing inflammation, corticosteroids help alleviate the pain associated with shoulder conditions. This is a significant relief for those suffering from chronic shoulder pain.
  3. Improving Mobility: Inflammation often leads to stiffness and limited range of motion in the shoulder joint. Corticosteroid injections can help improve mobility by reducing inflammation and allowing for more natural movement.

Administering Steroid Injections

Now that we understand how steroid injections work let’s explore how they are administered. The process involves several steps:

  1. Medical Evaluation: Before administering a steroid injection, a healthcare provider will conduct a thorough evaluation of your shoulder. This includes assessing your medical history, performing physical examinations, and possibly ordering imaging tests like X-rays or MRI scans to pinpoint the source of your pain.
  2. Preparation: Once your healthcare provider such as the Texas Joint Institute,
    identifies the source of your shoulder pain, they will prepare the injection site by cleaning it with an antiseptic solution. This ensures that no bacteria or contaminants enter the joint during the procedure.
  3. Local Anesthesia: To minimize discomfort during the injection, your healthcare provider may use a local anesthetic to numb the area.
  4. Injection: Using a fine needle, the corticosteroid solution is injected directly into the affected area of the shoulder. The injection delivers the medication precisely where it’s needed to reduce inflammation and relieve pain.
  5. Post-Injection Care: After the injection, your healthcare provider may advise you to rest the shoulder for a short period. They might also recommend physical therapy or exercises to help improve shoulder strength and mobility.

Effectiveness and Duration

The effectiveness of steroid injections can vary from person to person and depends on several factors, including the severity of the condition and the accuracy of the injection. However, many individuals experience significant relief from shoulder pain within a few days to a week after receiving the injection.

It’s important to note that the relief provided by a single steroid injection may be temporary. The duration of pain relief can vary but often lasts for several weeks to several months. In some cases, additional injections may be needed to maintain or prolong the benefits.

Possible Side Effects

While steroid injections can be highly effective in relieving shoulder pain, they are not without potential side effects. Some possible side effects include:

  1. Pain or Discomfort: You may experience mild pain or discomfort at the injection site for a short period following the procedure.
  2. Infection: Although rare, there is a risk of infection at the injection site. Signs of infection include increased redness, swelling, warmth, and pain. If you notice these symptoms, contact your healthcare provider promptly.
  3. Thinning of Skin or Tissues: Repeated steroid injections over an extended period can lead to thinning of the skin or tissues at the injection site. This is more common when injections are given frequently.
  4. Flushing or Mood Changes: Some individuals may experience temporary flushing of the face or mild mood changes, although these effects are typically short-lived.
  5. Elevated Blood Sugar Levels: Steroid injections can temporarily raise blood sugar levels in individuals with diabetes. If you have diabetes, it’s essential to monitor your blood sugar levels closely after receiving a steroid injection.
  6. Allergic Reactions: Although rare, some individuals may experience allergic reactions to the medication used in the injection. Symptoms of an allergic reaction can include hives, itching, swelling, or difficulty breathing. Seek immediate medical attention if you suspect an allergic reaction.


Remember that steroid injections are just one part of a comprehensive treatment plan for shoulder pain. Always follow your healthcare provider’s recommendations and communicate any concerns or side effects promptly.

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I am Jessica Moretti, mother of 1 boy and 2 beautiful twin angels, and live in on Burnaby Mountain in British Columbia. I started this blog to discuss issues on parenting, motherhood and to explore my own experiences as a parent. I hope to help you and inspire you through simple ideas for happier family life!


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