a hypodermic needle inserted into a vial of medicine

Q. I have stenosis in my spine, degenerative back disease and arthritis. Some days I can walk for awhile but most of the time walking and normal activities are very painful. I hate steroid shots. The benefit seems short lived and I worry about long-term side effects.
Are there any home remedies that might be helpful for the inflammation and pain that has interfered with my ability to get around?

A. We understand your concern about steroid side effects. Doctors seem to think that when they inject a corticosteroid into the spine or a joint (hips, knees, elbows or shoulders) that it says put. We strongly suspect that corticosteroids migrate into the surrounding bone and increase the risk for weakening and osteoporosis, thereby increasing the underlying problems. People with arthritis of the joint do not need to have the bone become weaker. One expert in the field once told us that steroids “melt bone,” and we think he was not far off with that vivid description.
Other side effects of injected cortisone or other corticosteroids include:


  • Fluid retention, edema, sodium retention
  • Headache, dizziness
  • Anxiety, nervousness, irritability, insomnia
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased blood sugar (glucose)
  • Muscle weakness
  • Loss of potassium
  • Infection, immune system suppression
  • Osteopenia, osteoporosis

When it comes to home remedies, there is not a lot that can ease the pressure on nerves caused by spinal stenosis or bony narrowing of the spinal column. A general anti-inflammatory regimen does make sense, however. Some of the remedies we generally recommend to ease inflammation include:

  • Tart cherries
  • Almonds
  • Olive oil
  • Walnuts
  • Pomegranates
  • Blueberries
  • Salmon
  • Bluefish
  • Ginger
  • Vitamin D
  • Gin-soaked raisins
  • Certo & grape juice
  • Apple cider vinegar, apple & grape juice
  • Turmeric
  • Boswellia
  • Fish oil & green-lipped mussels
  • Acupuncture

To learn more details about such non-drug approaches we suggest our books, Best Choices From The People’s Pharmacy or Quick & Handy Remedies.
We hope one or more of the remedies we have suggested will be helpful for easing your discomfort. And do keep your eyes peeled for a People’s Pharmacy update. There is a new study that will be published in a couple of days revealing some scary information about the long-term consequences of steroid shots in the spine.

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  1. Wendy

    I was told I needed a Kenalog-40 injection for chronic knee pain yesterday morning. Other then being told it could take up to 24-48 hrs to take effect, that is all I was told about this drug. I took a nap in the afternoon and woke up drenched from sweat. This hasn’t happened since the change finished. Couldn’t sleep last night and I and on edge. My knee is screaming at me. I already suffer from anxiety and take meds. for that also already have IBS-D. I can’t go through emotional ups and downs as well. I called this morning to talk about the pain in my knee the PA wasn’t available

  2. Colleen

    Received a kenalog cortisone injection in my si joint on December 10-2015. My nightmare began the first night, anxiety, insomnia, night sweats for 2 weeks. Then, period for 18 days (never happened before) racing heart, nausea, indigestion, gastric issues, weak legs, facial flushing, weight loss, no appetite, acid reflux, upper back pain, under rib pain, and the worst non bacteria cystitis (bladder).. Doctor doesn’t think it’s the injection that caused all this. I disagree. I was a healthy person before I received that injection.. It’s been 3 months and I am still not doing good. Wish I never agreed to the injection.

  3. Gail
    Calgary Canada

    I had a cortisone shot into my SI joint on Monday and on Wednesday had a PE in my lower right lung I’m just wondering if there’s any connection. Does anybody else know anything similar to that?

  4. Janet

    I had cortisone shots into both hips 12/23/15…. since then had severe right side abdominal pain, diarrhea, severe frontal headache for the first week, headache gone…I went in to see a dr. In the first week….I asked him if this could be a reaction to the shots…he wouldn’t answer me….finally a month later my husband made an appointment with a dr. Asst. or ? She said my diarrhea was probably nerves as she had something like it before.

    After blood tests and stool samples I tested positive for E. Coli…so my husband and I got a n appointment with a dr. Who was very thorough and said there is usually an underlying immune problem to pick up E,. Coli…and did lots of tests and an Ultrasound of my abdomen…nothing showed up….they both said I should have a Colonoscopy….said to go on bland diet and not eat gluten which I had already started because I have lots of extended family with Celiac disease, take Tylenol 3 for pain and at night with my sleep me.

    The diarrhea has left me and the severe pain most of the time….so we scheduled pre op and colonoscopy…had the preop all blood tests ok but still test positive for E. Coli….next week will have to cancel Colonoscopy and hopefully talk to the dr. who did the preop….no one will admit these symptoms are side effects of cortisone…..the pain management nurse who did call the week after the shots said the symptoms were a reaction to the shots but nothing was put in my chart…..but my meeting with the person who gave the shots can celled my follow up. So everything is probably on hold for now so hopefully when the shots wear off the E. Coli was be negative. I am frustrated and just want them to admit and put in my chart that this was probably a reaction to the cortisone shots. I don’t intend to sue as most people are helped by the shots…but worried the test is still positive after 17 days. My both hips need to be replaced so that will be on hold until this is gone…..that is my story…sad but true.

  5. Melissa

    I’ve had several cortisone shots due to arthritis in my neck and lunar region of my back. My problem I’d I now have chronic severe diarrhea. They can’t find anything wrong with my stomach or bowels and I think it’s caused by the shots. It started about 2 months ago and I’d just had the shots in my neck, 5 in total. Does anyone else have this issue?

    • Colleen

      Yes, Melissa, I as well have these issues plus more side effects. How are you doing now?

  6. Judy

    Concerning steriod shots I’ve been in 66 days of hell had only 1 shot 40 mg been in the er 7 times anxeity is out of control now have PTSD from it when will this poison stop in my body now seeing a theripist

    • Judy

      Still after 3 months the anxeity is out the roof still when will this go away

    • Marckieparkie
      Dallas, TX

      I had an 80 ml cortisone injection 16 weeks ago for seasonal allergies.
      Since then I have had massive anxiety, insomnia, and some diarrhea. I am now on 7.5 mg Lexapro and Ativan when things get really get bad.
      I have had some improvement in symptoms after 16 weeks, but by any definition things are still horrible.
      Went to do my doctor. He said he had never seen this. Did a few test adrenal, thyroid….All normal.

  7. lucy
    chicopee ma

    I had 5 cortisone shots in 1 week and I have never been right since. I can’t walk good my ankles get swollen fast and I am weak and tired. I have swollen hands and all my joints ache.

    I was a very active person until I got those shots. Now I feel ready for the nursing home. It has been 5 months now. Been to every dr in town have 3 more to go. Nobody knows what is wrong with me
    I hope this doesn’t happen to anyone else.

    • Sharon F.

      I had a cortisone shot a month ago and have been feeling dizzy, jittery and weakness since the shot. This is ridiculous. I will never get another one and can’t wait for this mess to get out of my system.

    • Melissa
      Charlotte, NC

      I understand. I had a steroid spinal nerve injection 3 months ago. I seem to feel worse daily. Im fatigued, nauseous, constant headaches, crazy sleep patterns, depressed, my right leg ( previously it was my left) is often in excruciating pain, blood pressue spiking ( now on an additional blood pressure Rx ), body bloat, and more.
      I fell at work and have 2 herniated discs one compressing a nerve.
      I used to be happy, energetic, and in very good health for a 58 yr. old. Does anyone know when people get better from this?

  8. Elba A.

    I have only had 2 shots of Cordazone and it has done nothing for me. .I am still in pain..but do feel bloated..How long will this last. .I decided no more shots there not working anyway..what are my options..I have arthritis in the neck

    • Suzy

      I have had 3 cortisone shots for frozen shoulder over 32 years. This injections have been done by a doctor who specialises in just doing this under imaging. It has been miraculous for me and I can’t thank him enough for giving me mobility back with our pain.
      I have had one in my spine when the pain was so bad I could not walk. It was successful and this was 10 years ago.

  9. Nancy

    My pain management specialist gave me a minimum of 16 to 28 epidural injections; three of which were caudal. and another 9 cortisone shots for my hip, knee and shoulder within the same period (February 27th through May 1st, 2015). The problems worsened and I stopped going to him. The pain up and down the side of my leg turned out to be iliotibial band syndrome and was a problem outside of the spine. I went to an ER for the pain. The ER referred me out to an orthopedic surgeon. I hate to say the orthopedicu surgeon did one more cortisone shot. He must have found the right place in my hip. The problem vanished. It came back a week later from the position my feet had to be placed in during a MRI for 30 minutes. That same position also caused caused bursitis in the opposite hip. I have NPS Syndrome and it was necessary to make sure my feet were straight …so they used very wide rubberbands to keep them together. Upon my last visit to the orthopedic surgeon he did two more My iliotibial band problem is gone; my bursisis is still annoying but I am afraid to see anyone who may give me steroids again. I probably had six or seven years (or more) worth of cortisone injections between 2-26-15 and Thursday (6-4-15). What will happen to me?

    I’m feeling rather shaky, my heart is fluttering and I do have heart arrythmias (my pain management specialist knew my history). I have had atrial ablation and three arrythmias remain of the four found on my heart monitor worn in 2009. I am on medication for them. To say I am bloated is an underestimation.

    What is all this cortisone going to do to me. I had asked the Pain Management Specialist if this much cortisone was harmful and he told me cortisone is in each cell of your body. Cortisone cannot hurt you. I had gone to this pain management specialist for years. I have always believed I had a little more cortisone each year than was recommended. The reason I went is because he got me out of terrible pain quickly and I trusted him: I have RSDS; a painful syndrome if ever and lived with daily spasms from what was the frontier of treating this back in the late 1980’s. I needed to travel with my position and he made it possible for me to get on a plane and not end up losing my business. I have a complex back history and it seemed better than surgery. I definitely am one of those patients who have had a long-term epidural (cortisone) history starting with 1996 to just recently (May 2015).


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