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Cortisone Injection VS Acupuncture

It is a quite often that doctors prescribe cortisone injection if you complaint prolonged pain at muscle or joint area, such as shoulder, elbow or knee. However, more and more patients are concerned with the effectiveness of the injection and potential side effect of cortisone. Though the practice has been widely used, there are some uncertainty still remained. As early as 1975, Richardson already questioned its effectiveness on frozen shoulder by reporting no difference compared to placebo in his study(1). A systematic review of randomized controlled studies from six databases by Smidt et al (2002) failed to find long term effectiveness of steroid injections on tennis elbow(2).British medical consultant Peter Baldry (2004) , in his very successful book” Acupuncture, Trigger points and Musculoskeletal Pain”, pointed out that the pain relieving effect produced by an injection of steroid into local tissue might be no more than a simple needle stimulation(3).

As a result, many patients turn to other natural therapies. There is no doubt that acupuncture is an option for this sort of musculoskeletal pain, as seen through a great number of patients attending acupuncture clinics throughout Australia with exactly the same problem. As an acupuncturist, I have seen similar cases quite often, and most of patients are satisfied with the results. A study by Kavoussi (2007) confirmed the anti-inflammatory effect of acupuncture which is a key role in relieving pain(4). The Joint Commission of US recently updated its pain management standard requiring use of non-pharmacological treatments including acupuncture in its accredited hospitals from 1st of Jan, 2018. Of course, there are more research needed to help us better understanding acupuncture mechanism.

(1)Richardson A T 1975 The painful shoulder. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine 68: 731-736
(2)Smidt N, Assedelft W J, van der Windt D A, Hay E M,Buchbinder S, Bouter L M 2002 Corticosteroid injections for lateral epicondylitis: a systematic review. Pain 96(1-2)
(3)Peter Baldry 2005 Acupuncture, Trigger Points and Muscuskeletal Pain (the third edition)
(4)Kavoussi B1, Ross BE 2007 The neuroimmune basis of anti-inflammatory acupuncture.Integr Cancer Ther. 2007 Sep;6(3):251-7

Possible side effects of cortisone injection, please see below link:

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