Getting regular steroid injections is not effective for reducing knee pain over the long-term and may lead to cartilage reduction.
Getting a corticosteroid shot every month or few months is commonly used to deal with knee osteoarthritis. While that may be effective for short-term relief of pain, researchers say receiving shots over many months or even years can cause damage to knee cartilage.
In a new study, researchers looked at 140 patients with arthritic knees. The patients received either a steroid injection (triamcinolone) or a placebo injection with a saline solution. Injections were given every 12 weeks for 2 years.
Those who received the triamcinolone injections had significant reduction in cartilage volume compared with those who got the placebo injection, according to results published in JAMA. In addition, there was no significant difference in terms of pain levels in the 2 groups.
A Cochrane review of medical studies on steroid injections for knee osteoarthritis conducted in 2015 came to a similar conclusion. That analysis found that patients getting the injection had only marginally better pain reduction compared with those that received a placebo shot.