Cortisone Shots: Why I Got One

(Edit Note: OK, so what I wrote yesterday about why women who qualify should get their elite license clearly hit a nerve because it got six or seven times the usual readership and people were quite worked up elsewhere on the internets. To be clear: I am not calling out anyone specifically. Like I said, there are plenty of individual reasons not to upgrade, but on the aggregate when far fewer women make that choice there’s a problem. At some other point I will perhaps expand on why, if triathlon was really done the way I want, we should have amateur, elite amateur, and professional categories. But since triathlon’s not run the way I want,  we gotta do the best with what we got.)

UPDATE: I wrote this post about how the cortisone shot worked out for me at Boston and after.

This morning, all other things aside, I got a cortisone shot in my foot. It looked just like this:

It won't hurt at all.
It won’t hurt at all.

Actually, I didn’t even notice the needle that much because the doctor had sprayed stuff to freeze my foot and numb it.

There are lots of reasons not to get cortisone shots. And, at first, it seemed that my toe joint was getting better with regular anti-inflammatories and ice, so I wasn’t worried and wasn’t going to get the shot. But, after running on it last week, it simply stopped getting better. It seemed that I had badly inflamed one spot and it just kept hurting. The doctor thought a cortisone shot would bring the inflammation down enough to make the pain go away. Since I’m planning on running Boston either way, it would be better if it didn’t hurt when I did that.

But, if you start reading about cortisone shots, there are lots of problems. They don’t solve the initial cause of the pain, so often that problem comes back. And, that will likely be the case for me. It seems that I also have a small bone spur at the base of my toe that rubs when it bends or pushes off, so that’s causing the inflammation and I may eventually have to get it filed down or whatever it is you do with a bone spur.

Lots of times people get cortisone shots for things that aren’t really things cortisone shots will fix. Cortisone is just a steroidal anti-inflammatory, so no, it’s not going to fix a tear or muscle problem.

There can also be side effects, like increased stiffness or pain or possible infection at the injection point. And, the doctor did tell me that I would likely have more pain and swelling for a couple days. That also means that often you can’t do activity or are supposed to let it rest for a couple days, which is typically counter-productive to why you got the shot in the first place.

The biggest side effect, though, is that by masking the pain people are able to ignore the cues their body is giving them and can do worse damage. I was assured this was not the case for my problem, since I was getting the shot in a toe joint and not in a tendon or ligament — which really doesn’t sound like a good idea. You can also only get so many cortisone shots, because it can damage the ability of the cartilage to grow.

So, all that makes it sound like not a great idea. Yet, I got the shot.

Largely, many of the issues and problems sounded like they weren’t going to be problems for my specific injury. I can’t do long-term damage; it’s just going to hurt like a mother. And, because the main source of my pain is the inflammation, the shot may bring that down enough to help fix the overall issue.

But, mostly, I got the shot because it’s sort of a last resort. I’m going to line-up at the start of the race on Monday pretty much no matter what at this point. The main hindrance to finishing well is going to be how much it hurts. If we can get it not to hurt enough, then I can race, rest for a good amount of time after (since I don’t have anything else on my schedule), and possibly fix the underlying bone spur problem.

At least that’s the plan. Plan B was: hope. That’s still our back-up solution right now.

Have you ever got a cortisone shot? Tell me it worked out great.


32 thoughts on “Cortisone Shots: Why I Got One

  1. I think you have to make the right calls specifically for you, and lots of athletes use cortisone to work through injuries. There’s nothing I can say that you don’t already know, except: Boston is going to be amazing!!!

      1. Last year was one of the most miserable runs of my life. But also the best. It’s the spectacle that is Boston.

  2. I’m glad you got something to at least make the race a little more comfortable. Hope the fix afterwards gets you back training without too much trouble.

  3. I got a cortisone shot in my heel in a final attempt to cure plantar fasciitis. It could not have worked out better – the inflammation in the plantar fascia went away and with it the pain, and then I could work on resting and rehab. Hope your results are equally good.

    1. I read what you wrote and have the same issues you describe. After a few months how are you now after the shot. I’m in so much pain each day.

      1. Well, it’s hard to say for me. It was ok, but still kind of ache-y/sore. So, I rested some, but then probably still ran and did too much stuff to really rest it. Then, I got new insoles and that seemed to help running. But, the last three weeks it’s been really sore again from walking too much in dress shoes, so I can’t really run right now. Not sure if ultimately it’ll get better or if I’ll end up having to do something more drastic.

  4. Got a cortisone shot for my Morton’s neuroma. I think it calmed it down at the time, and I eventually returned to training. But years later, I still have the neuroma. So…

    1. Oh yeah, I’m going to have to figure out the underlying problem eventually. Probably later this year. If it is a bone spur that may be relatively straight-forward — shitty but straight-forward. But, for now, I just want to get through Boston.

  5. Well, after reading this it seems that this might be my only option at this point. I have for the last two months been dealing with a swollen second toe. I have periods of days where my toe will not hurt at all and then others where the pain is so bad I don’t want to get out of bed. I went to the podiatrist and the first thing he did was take Xrays to check for fractures and found nothing. The second thing he suggested was either a. cortisone shot or b. 3 weeks of anti-inflammatory or ibuprofen regiment. Both of these “solutions” don’t seem to sit well with me. I don’t feel like cortisone shot is going to cause the issue to go away, and pumping my body with 800+mg of ibuprofen doesn’t seem like the right answer.

    It almost feels like I’m walking a marble every day and now I feel like its actually starting to effect my knees because I’m trying to compensate for my pain by walking funny.

    I’m really starting to get upset and nervous this is going to effect me in ways that I never would have thought of. A few of my friends one being an ex-marine said he felt like it was turf toe and probably something wrong with the ligament since nothing was found of a bone spur or fracture in the xrays.

    My second toe is about twice the size on my left foot than my right foot and I’m really not eager to be sticking needles in my toes.

    I know this is not medical advice but how are you feeling today? Do you regret it at this point are you starting to feel any pain come back at all?

    ~Josh

  6. Well, after reading this it seems that this might be my only option at this point. I have for the last two months been dealing with a swollen second toe. I have periods of days where my toe will not hurt at all and then others where the pain is so bad I don’t want to get out of bed. I went to the podiatrist and the first thing he did was take Xrays to check for fractures and found nothing. The second thing he suggested was either a. cortisone shot or b. 3 weeks of anti-inflammatory or ibuprofen regiment. Both of these “solutions” don’t seem to sit well with me. I don’t feel like cortisone shot is going to cause the issue to go away, and pumping my body with 800+mg of ibuprofen doesn’t seem like the right answer.

    It almost feels like I’m walking a marble every day and now I feel like its actually starting to effect my knees because I’m trying to compensate for my pain by walking funny.

    I’m really starting to get upset and nervous this is going to effect me in ways that I never would have thought of. A few of my friends one being an ex-marine said he felt like it was turf toe and probably something wrong with the ligament since nothing was found of a bone spur or fracture in the xrays.

    My second toe is about twice the size on my left foot than my right foot and I’m really not eager to be sticking needles in my toes.

    I know this is not medical advice but how are you feeling today? Do you regret it at this point are you starting to feel any pain come back at all?

    ~Josh

  7. I just broke down and got the shot today….. Felt like a sell out, but no amount of physio and other methods were doing much for me. I have a cuboid metatarsal sprain – almost 6 weeks ago that just isn’t healing. Shot went well, no worse pain…fingers crossed!!
    Has anyone here tried prolo therapy?

    1. Yeah, it was moderately painful? Painful in a sharp way for a short amount of time, but then fine. At least for me. Of course, I didn’t get one for plantar, I got it for an inflamed tendon, so it might be different.

      1. Thanks for reply. Did the shot help with permanent relief for your tendonitis? Friends of mine said the shots gave them relief for a few days and the problems returned.

  8. I have had 3 cortizone shots in big toe joint in the last 6 months and the last 2 were weeks apart and a few days after my pain was back it’s hard to walk and my toe just hurts all day I sit for hours just rubbing my toe joint I feel like there are bone spurs but no help from doctors they wanna keep giving the cortizone in different areas of the big toe ….I am in so much pain ..In my opinion cortizone shots don’t help if anything it makes it worse

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