Cortisone injections are one of the fastest and most effective ways to relieve joint pain. Steroid injections work by reducing inflammation around the joint, which alleviates pain and stiffness. Studies have shown that more than 80% of patients with knee pain return to sport within a month after a cortisone injection .
Cortisone injections work quickly, but you should still take it easy for at least 24 hours after having a cortisone injection. Getting enough rest after a cortisone injection can help you cope with any pain or swelling in the affected area, and manage or even prevent other side effects.
Let’s explore why resting after a cortisone injection is an important part of the healing and treatment process.
Table of Contents
- How long should you rest after a cortisone injection?
- Why do you need to rest after a cortisone injection?
- Joints and cortisone injections: how long should you rest?
- Is walking good after a cortisone injection?
- Can you drive straight after a cortisone injection?
- Do you need time off work after a steroid injection?
- When can you go back to the gym after a cortisone shot?
- When can you start running after a cortisone injection?
- Avoiding cortisone injection side effects
- Where to get cortisone injections
How long should you rest after a cortisone injection?
Rest is an important part of recovery, even after a cortisone injection. It’s generally advised that otherwise healthy patients rest for at least 24 hours after having a cortisone injection.
Your post-cortisone injection recovery time depends on your current state of health and fitness. If you’re older, or have multiple conditions that make it more difficult to get up and about, you may need to rest longer than this.
You should also rest the affected joint for at least seven days, depending on any side effects you experience and the advice from your physiotherapist.
For example, if you’ve had a cortisone injection in your spine (or another type of injection for back pain) to relieve pain from sciatica, you can return to gentle slow walking after a day. But try to avoid overexerting your back or doing any high-impact activities (such as running) for a week after your procedure.
You may be advised to rest for longer if:
- You experience moderate cortisone side effects, such as cortisone flare or swelling around the joint.
- You have a specific condition that requires extra rest for successful recovery.
- Your overall health, fitness, and activity levels.
- A high dose of cortisone is administered, or cortisone is injected across multiple joints.
Why do you need to rest after a cortisone injection?
There are a few reasons to take it easy after having a steroid injection:
- Allow the steroid to work — Steroids provide rapid relief, but it’s not always instant. Resting your joint(s) for a few days will help the medicine take effect . Find out how long epidural injections for back pain last.
- Prevent systemic absorption — Cortisone works best if it remains in the targeted area, so resting can stop the steroid being absorbed by the blood or other tissues in the body .
- Minimise the risk of cartilage damage — Chondrotoxicity (cartilage damage) is a known side effect of steroid injections, but the risk can be reduced by resting for a few days after the procedure .
After a couple of days, the cortisone should have taken effect and it’s safe to slowly resume your normal activity levels. If you did a lot of exercise before your injection, make sure to start slowly and build up to your previous activity levels.
Joints and cortisone injections: how long should you rest?
No matter which joint you have a cortisone injection in, you’ll need to rest for at least a day or two afterwards. You may also find that cortisone injections don’t provide total pain relief, so you need to build up your activity very gradually [4-5]. Here’s how long you should rest for each of the most commonly affected joints.
Do you need to rest after a cortisone injection in your knee?
Yes, you should rest after a cortisone injection in your knee. All lower limb joints need particular care, as even walking puts pressure on these areas.
Rest for at least 24-48 hours after a cortisone injection in your knee. You can then resume slow, gentle walking for short distances if you feel able to.
Do you need to rest after a cortisone injection in your shoulder?
You can usually walk around normally after a cortisone injection in your shoulder as long as you’re feeling well. However, you’ll need to rest your arms and upper body. That means no moderate or strenuous lifting for at least seven days after a shoulder cortisone injection.
Do you need to rest after a cortisone injection in your hip?
You will need to rest after a cortisone injection in your hip. Your hip joint is used in lots of movements and activities, including walking, swimming, yoga, and pilates. Find out more about if swimming is good for sciatica.
You may need to limit all types of activity for around seven days following a cortisone injection into your hip joint, or until your physiotherapist advises you otherwise.
Do you need to rest after a cortisone injection in your foot?
Yes, you must rest for 24-48 hours after a cortisone injection in your foot. Minimise the amount of walking and standing you do during this time.
After 48 hours, you can start to resume gentle walking (as long as your physiotherapist gives you the go-ahead).
Is walking good after a cortisone injection?
However, if it’s your wrist, elbow, or another joint that isn’t used in walking, you can safely walk around as much as you feel able to.
If in doubt, ask your doctor or private physiotherapist for further advice. They can help you determine which activity levels are safe.
Can you drive straight after a cortisone injection?
You should only drive after a cortisone injection if it’s clinically safe for you to do so. If you feel drowsy, numb, or weak following your injection, you shouldn’t drive.
It’s best to bring someone else to your injection appointment with you so you won’t need to drive afterwards.
Do you need time off work after a steroid injection?
You may choose to take a day or two off work after a cortisone injection, especially if you have a physically demanding job. But it’s not mandatory, as long as you have the flexibility to rest your affected joints while you’re at work.
When can you go back to the gym after a cortisone shot?
It depends on how you feel after the local anaesthetic wears off and your initial period of rest is over. If you feel ready, you can go back to the gym three to four days after a cortisone injection.
When you return to the gym, start by exercising muscles and joints that haven’t received treatment. Gradually, over a few sessions, you can start exercising the affected areas again.
If you experience any pain or discomfort, ease off the exercise and take it at a slower pace. Rest more than normal to avoid overexertion.
When can you start running after a cortisone injection?
If you’ve had a cortisone injection in your leg, hip, or back, you should hold off running for at least a week after the procedure. This will give the steroids time to work, and allow you to build up your activity levels again before returning to a high-impact run.
In the meantime, replace your regular run with cross-training, walking, or swimming. These low-impact cardiovascular activities can help you stay active while you recover.
See an example post-cortisone injection running schedule in the table below. Bear in mind these suggestions are only suitable if you were a regular runner before your cortisone injection, and have no other injuries or health conditions. If you’re new to running or have lower fitness levels, this suggested timeline may be too aggressive. Listen to your body and take it slow to reduce the risk of injury.
|Don’t pull or tug on your split ends, this will only lead to more hair breakage.
|Return to low-impact activities including cross-training, swimming, and walking. Continue resting the affected joint.
|Gradually increase low-impact activity levels. Listen to your body and stop exercising if you feel too much discomfort.
|Check in with your physiotherapist. If they believe it’s safe, incorporate a slow, short jog into your exercise routine. Use a treadmill if possible and wear supportive footwear.
|Build-up your jogging and running activity levels under physio supervision.
If you’ve had a cortisone injection in an upper limb, you can start running again after just two days of rest.
Avoiding cortisone injection side effects
Steroid injection side effects are relatively rare, but resting after cortisone injections can minimise potential problems. So while you may be impatient to get back to your normal activities, it pays to take it easy. After a few days, you’ll find you can resume a pain-free day-to-day life.
Where to get cortisone injections
Cortisone injections may be offered on the NHS in rare cases, but many patients seek private cortisone injections to treat their joint pain. This helps you avoid long waiting lists and referral times. If you’re not offered this treatment by your GP, book an appointment at Harley Street Specialist Hospital.
When you get cortisone injection treatment at our world-class private medical facility, you’ll receive:
- Treatment the same day as your assessment appointment (if you’re eligible).
- A full and frank discussion about the treatments available to you (including alternatives to cortisone injections).
- Rest and aftercare information and advice to ensure a swift recovery.
- A report you can pass on to your GP to keep them informed of the treatments you’ve received.