In this procedure, steroid (anti-inflammatory) and numbing medications are injected into the joint capsule to help reduce inflammation caused by stress and irritation. The length of time that the pain relief from joint injections lasts varies from patient to patient, due to underlying conditions and other factors. Talk to your doctor about how long this technique might work for you.

Conditions Joint Injections Treat

At University of Maryland Pain Medicine, we treat many inflammatory conditions that cause pain in the large joints in the body – hips, shoulders and knees. These include: 

  • Cartilage tears
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Overuse
  • Previous surgery
  • Rheumatoid arthritis

A sacroiliac joint injection provides pain relief by reducing the inflammation and swelling within the sacroiliac joints, which are located within the lower back where the spine connects to the pelvis. These joints do not move much, but they support our body weight when standing. Stress and inflammatory diseases affecting them can result in significant pain in the lower back, hips, groin, buttocks and thighs. 

Patient Information: Joint Injections

How do I prepare for the procedure?

Your pain management team will provide you with full instructions for how to prepare for a joint injection. This will include when you can eat prior to the procedure and what medications you are able to take. If you are diabetic, pregnant or taking blood thinners, such as Coumadin (warfarin) or Plavix, let your doctor know.

You should arrange to have someone drive you home from the procedure.

What happens during the actual procedure?

You sit or lie on your back, depending on the joint and technique, on an X-ray table. We will numb the area with an injection using a very small needle. This may cause a burning or stinging sensation that usually lasts about 10 seconds.

Using X-ray or ultrasound guidance, your doctor will identify the joint. If using X-ray, we will inject contrast dye to confirm correct placement. A thin needle will then inject a local anesthetic and steroid medication. The procedure takes about 10-15 minutes.

Most people say the stinging of the initial numbing medicine is the most uncomfortable part of the procedure. You may also feel pressure during the injection. You may have some mild soreness after the procedure for several hours.

What will happen after the procedure?

You will remain in our recovery area about 10-15 minutes. You receive verbal and written discharge instructions and may go home with your driver after your doctor authorizes discharge.

Your pain may improve immediately after the injection from the numbing medicine. This will wear off after several hours. It is possible that you will have some soreness at the injection site and your pain may worsen for a day or two after the procedure.

The steroid medication takes three to five days before having an effect in most people; therefore, it may take several days before you feel decreased pain. Using an ice pack three or four times a day can help with the discomfort at the injection site.

You may take your usual pain medication after the injection.

What are the risks of the procedure?

As with most procedures, there is a risk of bleeding, infection or allergic reaction to the medications used. 

The local anesthetic rarely may cause temporary numbness or weakness in your legs or arms, depending on the location of the injection. If this interferes with your ability to walk safely, you will have to remain in the clinic until this resolves.

You may have soreness or bruising for a few days after the injection, including localized pain at the injection site. Diabetics may experience a short-term elevation of blood sugar because of the steroid medication.