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:

INJECTABLE STEROID SIDE EFFECTS

  • 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. Susan
    West yorkshire
    Reply

    I have just had first steroid injection 12pm today and have felt weird ever since. Awful front forehead headache, feel flushed.

    I am 59yrs and sickness. I have osteoarthritis in both knees. Went online to look up side effects now.

    Now realize we all experiencing same. I am healthy and neither drink nor smoke, don’t ever have flushes or nausea, or headaches.

  2. KayCee
    Reply

    Yoga!

  3. Lori
    Colorado
    Reply

    I’m a 56 year old post-menopausal female. On June 27th, 2016, I had a kenalog lumbar injection due to pressure on my spinal nerves from spondylolisthesis (sp). For five days, I had an unrelenting headache that wouldn’t respond to anything.

    That subsided a tidge, but had a lot of other symptoms. I became jittery like my blood sugar was low, also had weakness and cramping in my arms and legs. My blood pressure, which has been mildly high, went up to moderately high and I got nasty, week long headaches every two weeks. I stopped taking the Motrin I had been large doses of and the headache subsided as did the b/p issue.

    Unfortunately, the rest of the symptoms are still here. I feel like I’m coming down with something every day. I have twitches in my head as well as in my body when I exert myself. I feel nauseated and my intestines cramp and have diarrhea every day. That is NOT normal for me, I have more constipation than anything else.

    Pain management doc said symptoms were unrelated, go see my regular doctor. I can’t get in to see him until mid-September. I could go walk-in but I’d see a PA and he’d do nothing. What has this done to me? Skewed my electrolytes? I’ve tried natural electrolyte supplements and increased my potassium and magnesium foods. I’ve only lost a bit of weight so I don’t think it’s blood sugar related. I’m scared, I’m afraid I’m going to pass out, hit my head, have a heart attack, God knows what. I’ve never felt like this before!! I just want this to go away and I will NEVER have another injection no matter how bad the back/hip/leg pain gets! Please someone tell me that this will subside, it’s been 8 weeks so far…. :-(

    • Aly
      Colorado
      Reply

      I can relate to some of the side effects shared in the posts. I’m a 57 year old female who received a lumbar injection of Kenalog-40 approximately two weeks ago for lower back and right hip/leg pain. I have central canal stenosis, bulging disks, and sciatica from nerve impingement.

      I went to a spine specialist who thought I’d benefit from epidural injections. The last two weeks have been an absolute nightmare. I usually do my research prior to taking any medication, but I was so desperate for relief that I didn’t bother.

      I’m really concerned after reviewing the side effects I found online. I have a family history of osteoporosis on both sides and was diagnosed in 2003 with mild osteopenia of the spine. My last bone scan T scores are borderline for treatment via oral medication. The last thing I need is to accelerate the bone loss process.

      Since the injection I have been experiencing the following: headaches, insomnia, facial flushing, irritability, erratic mood swings, reflux, and loss of appetite. I went for my follow up appointment last Thursday and the provider tried to talk me into another injection. He said he thought I would benefit from another injection because I’m still having symptoms. I agreed to come back on the 20th of this month for another injection.

      Today while bending over to turn off the hose faucet I had another episode of reflux. I had no idea what was causing this, so I started looking for answers online. I was treated in 2005 for reflux and it has been over ten years since I’ve had any episodes. I was told to avoid NSAID’s, which I have. I know it may take some time to see improvement, but I can’t deal with all of these new developments, so I’ll be calling in the morning to cancel. It’s definitely not worth the risk! Does anyone know how long this type of steroid induced reflux lasts? My husband has some OTC medication for GERD and I think I’ll take one tonight and see if it helps. I’d like to thank those who have posted on this site because it helps to read what you’ve experienced. I wish everyone the best in their recovery!

    • Irene
      Gauteng..South Africa
      Reply

      Hi lori
      irene..South Africa

      It’s been 8weeks for me also from celestone injection for my carpal tunnel syndrome. I got the injection on the 4th of July. Had to have 3 Drs but no test abnormality. I have headaches, debilitating back aches, stomach pain, muscular pains and aches, anxiety and depression, to name a few.

      Every 5th day brings about a new symptom. I am worn out and don’t know what to take for pain. I have become paranoid about side effects of meds and I refuse to take anti-anxiety meds- I have been on that road.

      I sleep daily wandering if will wake up the following day. I pray daily. God is kind and will answer our prayers if we don’t lose hope. All the best. Goodnight. Tonight, I have headaches and am battling to get some sleep.

      • Ewa
        SA
        Reply

        Hi – I had cortisone shot for sore hip 5 weeks ago . Panic attacks, high blood pressure and heart palpitations non stop . Can’t walk – my legs feel numb and sore . I was in perfect health before – active 54 year old . For the first time in my life I started taking Xanor as I feel I’m going mad . How can I get this poison out of my system ? Please , please help

        • Terry Graedon
          Reply

          It will take time. We don’t know of another antidote.

  4. Wendy
    Kansas
    Reply

    Hi-
    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

  5. Colleen
    Edmonton
    Reply

    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.

    • uche
      Reply

      Am having similar issues, I had 5 steroid injection within 4 months on my shoulder and chest (upper right breast) and started having gastritis (belching, gassing, heartburn, middle and upper backache, upper stomach pain etc, ) fatigue, weakness, loss of appetite (have lost 8kg with 2 months), blur vision and worst of all irregular menstruation.

    • Nathalie W.
      Denver CO
      Reply

      I, too, had a steroid injection in my neck. I noticed approximately five days after, SEVERE Insomnia, anxiety, rapid pounding heart beats, two weeks of diarrhea, 14 pound weight loss in less than two weeks, blurred vision, inability to focus, panic attacks at night, weakness, & severe tremors.

      I had the injection Aug 3rd & the symptoms developed 4 days after. It is September 1st and I STILL have 50% of the symptoms mentioned. Dr’s try to play off the symptoms lasting more than 2 weeks, but I’ve read horror stories of the symptoms lasting WELL over a month!

  6. Gail
    Calgary Canada
    Reply

    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?

  7. Janet
    MN
    Reply

    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.

  8. Melissa
    Ohio
    Reply

    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
      Reply

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

    • Nathalie W.
      Reply

      YES!!! I had diarrhea for 2 weeks straight, lost 14 lbs in less than 2 weeks, SEVERE insomnia, severe tremors, panic attacks, heart pounding, blurred vision, sneezing, severe weakness / fatigue. My injection was done on Aug 3 the symptoms developed 4-5 days after.

  9. Judy
    Az
    Reply

    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
      Az
      Reply

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

    • Marckieparkie
      Dallas, TX
      Reply

      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.

    • Nathalie W.
      Denver CO
      Reply

      I had an injection on Aug 3rd. I began developing symptoms 3-4 days after. Symptoms of severe tremors, 2 weeks of diarrhea, 14lb weight loss in less than 2 weeks, panic attacks, SEVERE insomnia, rapid pounding heartbeat, blurred vision, sneezing & cough which I RARELY have. Last cold 22 yrs ago, & sneezing?

      When I was in high school once or twice, (I’m 66 yrs old). It is Sept 1st & I am STILL having 50% of the symptoms. These Dr’s say the adverse reactions to the steriod lasts about 2 weeks. That’s a damn lie!!! I am STILL having them just as several others I’ve been reading. I am soooo angry!

  10. lucy
    chicopee ma
    Reply

    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.
      Md.
      Reply

      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.

      • CeCe
        Florida
        Reply

        I had a long-acting (3-mo) cortisone injection (4 mg dexamethasone) in my foot (for Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome) almost seven weeks ago and still feel dizzy off and on, anxious and jittery. How long did your symptoms last? I’m at my wits end! The foot Dr. said this has never happened, but my internist said she believes my symptoms are a result of the injection. I too will NEVER get another one.

      • CeCe
        Reply

        Sharon, how long did it take to feel better? I’m at almost seven weeks (post injection) and still feel horrible.

    • Melissa
      Charlotte, NC
      Reply

      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?

    • Nathalie W.
      Reply

      I was a very active person until I got a steroid shot in the neck & hip. 4-5 days after, I developed severe tremors, 2 weeks of diarrhea, 14 lb weight loss in less than 2 weeks, rapid pounding heartbeat, SEVERE insomnia, blurred vision, inability to focus, panic attacks at night while trying to sleep, weakness & fatigue. I was active & worked with a trainer, now I’m spending most of my time in bed. I had the injection on Aug 3rd, & I’m still having 50% of the symptoms

  11. Elba A.
    Haverhill
    Reply

    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
      NZ
      Reply

      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.

  12. Nancy
    NJ
    Reply

    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).

    Nance

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