Medical injections are often suggested to people with shoulder pain by doctors, surgeons and physiotherapists as a method of treatment. However, what does current scientific research have to say about its efficacy? Read on as I shed light on this topic!
But first, what exactly is being injected into the shoulder?
Corticosteroids, otherwise known as ‘cortisone’, is a synthetic steroid that works as an anti-inflammatory medication. When injected directly into the painful joint, it works to reduce the inflammation around the surrounding structures such as muscles and tendons. Pain relieving effects from a corticosteroid injection can be quite quick as the medication is given directly to the affected area.
- Plasma rich protein (PRP)
Plasma is the liquid portion of blood which contains platelets – the body’s key way of natural healing. Plasma rich protein injection involves using a concentration of the patient’s own blood plasma and injecting it into the affected region. How is the plasma drawn from your body? A sample of your blood is taken and spun on a centrifuge. This process separates the plasma from the blood. The plasma (containing the platelets) is then extracted and injected directly into your shoulder. This has become more popularised in the last decade.
Evidence regarding injections and shoulder pains
Multiple studies have shown that Corticosteroid injections can be effective in relieving pain in the short term up to 38 weeks. However, it has limited effects in the long term, with research showing up to 50% recurrence of a patient’s shoulder pain.
Currently, there is still insufficient evidence regarding the benefits of PRP injections with shoulder pain. Results from scientific studies have shown inconsistent results. In fact, 3 out of 5 studies demonstrated poorer outcomes with PRP injections when compared to formal physiotherapy.
Corticosteroids vs PRP
No significant difference in results between corticosteroids and PRP injections have yet to be found. While several high level studies have shown that PRP was more favourable over corticosteroids regarding knee osteoarthritis, results cannot be simply extrapolated to shoulder pain.
What does this all mean?
Joint injections for shoulder pain is a part of a holistic treatment plan in conjunction with physiotherapy. Injections can be used to provide short term pain-relief in the initial stages, but further manual therapy and clinical rehabilitation is still required to address the root of the problem. If you have been struggling with shoulder pain, let us help you! Click here to see our availability.