Many doctors prescribe steroid injections for joint pain and arthritis. Steroid shots can quickly reduce inflammation and ease discomfort. However, frequent or long term use of steroids can actually damage your joints and muscles over time. Steroids work by slowing down your body's ability to heal itself. While this may temporarily relieve symptoms, it allows damage to accumulate in your tissues.
Your body is constantly breaking down old or injured cells and replacing them with new ones. This process is called apoptosis. In normal amounts, apoptosis is healthy and helps your body work properly. However, high doses or long term use of steroids can cause too much apoptosis. This means the body breaks down more cells than it can replace. For joints and soft tissues, this can lead to tissue degeneration, weakening of tendons and ligaments, and bone loss.
Signs and symptoms that long term steroid use is causing harm include:
Steroids work by reducing inflammation in the tissues. However, inflammation is a necessary part of the body's healing process. Long term steroid use can inhibit the body's ability to heal itself and repair damage. One of the ways steroids interfere with healing is by inducing apoptosis or programmed cell death. As previously mentioned, apoptosis is a normal process where old or damaged cells die and are replaced. But too much apoptosis caused by steroids can lead to tissue degeneration.
While steroid shots seem like an easy fix, long term use or high doses can be detrimental to joint and soft tissue health.The temporary relief they provide is not worth the potential long term damage. Recent medical research shows that frequent steroid injections may actually worsen joint and tendon damage over time. Several studies have found a link between frequent steroid injections and increased cartilage loss in joints. Tendons can also weaken and rupture more easily. The more often steroids are injected into an area, the higher the risk of permanent damage.
The good news is there are alternative treatment options for arthritis and soft tissue injuries that do not pose the same risks as steroid overuse. Treatment options include:
In summary, while steroid injections can provide temporary relief from pain and inflammation for arthritis and soft tissue injuries, long term use of these injections should be avoided. There are alternative treatments that can provide relief from chronic pain without hurting your joints and muscles in the long run. Avoid repeat steroid shots whenever possible for the health of your body. Short term gain just isn't worth long term pain!
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