Orange County Laser Pain Relief (949) 857-1888

5 Reasons to
Avoid Cortisone Injections

1. Blocking the Inflammation Also Stops the Healing

2. Cortisone Injections Only Mask the Pain

3. Cortisone Injections Create More Scar Tissue Than Necessary

4. Cortisone Injections Weaken Connective Tissue

5. Cortisone Injections Prevent Your Body From Protecting Itself

Cortisone Injections vs. High Power Laser Therapy (HPLT)

Cortisone Injections (also know as Corticosteroid Injections or Cortisol Injections) can be effective at reducing pain associated with inflammation. Cortisone is an anti-inflammatory medication that mimics the effects of a naturally existing hormone in our bodies known as Cortisol. Cortisol is released by the body during times of emotional stress or physical trauma.

TOP 5 REASONS TO AVOID CORTISONE INJECTIONS

Reason #1: Blocking the Inflammation Also Stops the Healing

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Blocking inflammation often provides significant, albeit temporary, pain relief. However, inflammation is the primary healing mechanism of the body. Inhibiting the inflammatory process with cortisone injections or anti-inflammatory medications (Advil, Motrin, Ibuprofen, Alleve, etc.) can seriously delay or even stop the healing process. Delayed healing of injured tissue usually leads to the over-accumulation of scar tissue and weakening of the muscles, ligaments and tendons. This often makes the injured tissue even more likely to be injured again in the future.

The inhibitory effects of anti-inflammatory medication (whether oral or injected) has on the healing process are so widely known that they are often used as treatments to delay or stop connective tissue healing (skin, muscle, tendons, ligaments, fascia and bone). One example of such an application is in the prevention of abnormal bone growth within muscular tissue (heterotopic ossification).

Why Laser Therapy is Superior to Cortisone Injections:

  • High Power Laser Therapy (HPLT) increases the function of local blood vessels through a process called Vasodilation allowing more oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to flow to the injured area.
  • Laser Therapy activates the lymphatic drainage system which allows waste products and damaged cells to be removed more readily. This decreases the painful “swelling” component of inflammation while allowing the “healing” aspects of inflammation to proceed without interference.
  • The photons of light from Laser Therapy deliver high amounts of bioavailable energy directly to the injured tissue which accelerates the cellular reproduction and growth of tendons, ligaments and muscles. In other words these tissues are repaired faster.

Reason #2: Cortisone Injections Only Mask the Pain

Pain following a trauma is often triggered by pressure created by swelling and inflammation. Cortisone Injections reduces this inflammation oftentimes creating significant pain relief. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that pain is also a vital part of the healing process. Pain functions much like a smoke detector. When the detector senses a problem it sends out a piercing alarm to warn anybody in the vicinity that they are in danger. Pressure and pain receptors (nociceptors) also send alarm signals to the brain in the form of Pain. The pain is there for a reason – mainly to make sure you don’t participate in any activities that might cause you more harm. Blocking the pain with Cortisone Injections can be compared with taking the batteries out of the smoke alarm – the fire (tissue injury) still rages on creating lots of smoke (inflammation) while the occupants of the house remain unaware and in danger.
If you can’t feel the pain then you don’t know when it is time to stop an activity that may be placing your tendons and other soft-tissues in danger. In extreme cases the tendons, ligaments or muscles can actually suffer a complete rupture. An example of this is when Basketball Great Wilt Chamberlain ruptured a tendon after several Cortisone Injections.

Why Laser Therapy is Superior to Cortisone Injections:

  • High Power Laser Therapy (HPLT) reduces pain dramatically just like Cortisone Injections.
  • Laser Therapy relieves the pain caused by swelling while allowing the healing aspects of inflammation to continue. Cortisone blocks both the positive and negative aspects of inflammation which provides pain relief while sacrificing the healing process.
  • Laser Therapy also reduces pain by decreasing nerve sensitivity. If we use the smoke detector example above, Cortisone Injections take the batteries out of the smoke detector while Laser Therapy turns down the sensitivity of the device. Therefore, your body can still “warn” you if you are overexerting yourself while allowing most of your daily activities to continue without pain.

Reason #3: Cortisone Injections Create More Scar Tissue than Necessary

When the healing process in interrupted, interfered with or stopped the result is more than just a delay in healing. The quality of the injury repair suffers in nearly every circumstance. Healing damaged connective tissue is a race against time. Both inflammation and the tearing of nearby blood vessels drive the building materials necessary for healing to the injured area. When the healing is nearly completed phagocytes (microscopic garbage collectors) consume any unnecessary debris leftover from the repair process. If the healing process proceeds without interruption then the phagocytes do a great job and leave very little scar-tissue when they leave. However, Cortisone Injections slow this process to such a degree that more debris is created than can be cleared away leaving a large (macroscopic) pile of scar-tissue.

Why Laser Therapy is Superior to Cortisone Injections:

  • High Power Laser Therapy (HPLT) stimulates fibroblast development. Fibroblasts build collagen which is the predominant building block of wound and injury healing.
  • Laser Therapy actually accelerates the healing process (mentioned in Reason #1). The faster the healing process proceeds the less scar tissue is produced as a byproduct.
  • HPLT increases metabolic activity by stimulating the production of healing enzymes and improving the oxygen and nutrient carrying capacity of blood cells. Both of these factors contribute to increased phagocyte activity and efficiency. As mentioned above phagocytes consume and recycle excess scar tissue.

Reason #4: Cortisone Injections Weaken Connective Tissue

In Reason #3 we learned that Cortisone Injections create more scar tissue than is necessary for proper healing.
Why is this important? It is important because scar-tissue is MUCH less flexible than healthy connective tissue. More flexible HEALTHY TISSUE CAN STRETCH farther before tearing while less flexible SCAR TISSUE WILL TEAR relatively easily in comparison.

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Multiple studies in animals have demonstrated dramatic reductions in tensile strength of connective tissue injuries that healed in the presence of Cortisone and other anti-inflammatory medication. Tensile strength measures how much a tissue can be stretched before tearing in two. It is often measured by comparing the “load-to-failure ratio” (how much pulling apart leads to tearing apart) of the drug treated group versus a drug-free control group. Dozens of studies have demonstrated reductions in tissue strength between 22% and 41% on body regions ranging from knee ligaments to abdominal muscles. Put simply this means that people receiving a Cortisone Injection in a particular part of the body (low back for instance) are 22-41% more likely to re-injure the same body part because of the tissue weakening caused by the medication.

Why Laser Therapy is Superior to Cortisone Injections:

  • High Power Laser Therapy (HPLT) enhances and accelerates the inflammatory process. Weakening of soft tissue caused by Cortisone occurs because the inflammatory healing process is stopped in its track. Laser Therapy keeps the process on track and actually speeds it up!

Reason #5: Cortisone Injections Prevent Your Body from Protecting Itself

In Reason #2 we learned that pain actually fills an important role in the healing process. The same is true of Muscle Spasm. Muscle Spasms work to physically protect the injured tissue by limiting motion and mobility that would otherwise cause harm. In fact the terms “Protective Muscle Spasm” and “Muscle Guarding” are commonly used to describe this “protective” role that Muscle Spasms play.

It is commonly believed that muscles become spasmed due to direct trauma or injury. Although this does happen, it is far more common for both pain and the pressure of inflammation to trigger this protective response. Cortisone Injections generally reduce inflammation which, in turn, alleviates pain. This tends to lessen the “warning signals” that the body relies upon when deciding whether to spasm up a muscle defensively or not.

Without Protective Muscle Spasm the injured body part is now prone to further injury from actions that would normally be prevented by their efforts. Further injury is always associated with delayed healing, increased accumulation of scar tissue and less complete recovery.

Why Laser Therapy is Superior to Cortisone Injections:

  • High Power Laser Therapy (HPLT) reduces muscle spasm dramatically just like Cortisone Injections. The muscular pain and spasm is relieved through stimulation of muscle trigger points and acupuncture points. It provides non-invasive musculoskeletal pain relief without preventing the body’s inborn protective response.
  • Laser Therapy also reduces muscle spasm by decreasing nerve sensitivity. If we use the smoke detector example above (Reason #2), Cortisone Injections take the batteries out of the smoke detector while Laser Therapy turns down the sensitivity of the device. Therefore, your body can still offer protection with a muscle spasm if an action is performed that could cause harm while still providing significant pain relief during “safe” daily activities.

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