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Can Cortisone Make Knee Arthritis Worse?

Cortisone makes arthritis worse? That’s what brand-new studies are showing. Just this past week, a couple of new studies on corticosteroid knee injections showed that they were “significantly associated” with increased progression of osteoarthritis. Wow, cortisone injections do make arthritis worse!

If you have been following our newsletters or reading our website articles, you know we have revealed this to you over the years, as other studies have suggested the dangers of corticosteroids.

Injections of corticosteroids are a prevalent treatment used in traditional medicine to treat arthritis. And even though many studies over the years have shown the harmfulness of cortisone to joint structures, the treatment has continued to be used.

Hopefully, the results from the studies, which were presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, will change how physicians treat their patients.

Does the New Research Say Cortisone Makes Knee Arthritis Worse? 

  • The first study was from the University of California in San Francisco. Over a two-year period, the researchers compared 70 patients with osteoarthritis who had received intraarticular knee injections to a control group of 140 with osteoarthritis who did not get injections. The data showed more arthritis progression in patients who had steroid shots. (1)
  • In the second study, researchers at the Chicago Medical School studied 150 patients who received intraarticular knee injections. Once again, the patients injected with steroids had significantly more osteoarthritis progression. (2)

The data suggest that intraarticular cortisone injections speed up arthritis rather than prevent it.

Are These Results New?

Unfortunately, this is not the first time researchers have revealed the harmfulness of cortisone. Studies have shown for decades that cortisone damages cartilage cells.

  • Researchers in a 2019 study said, “Physicians do not commonly tell patients about the possibility of joint collapse or subchondral insufficiency fractures that may lead to earlier total hip or knee replacement,” “This information should be part of the consent when you inject patients with intra-articular corticosteroids.”(3)
  • In 2017 scientists said, “Among patients with symptomatic knee osteoarthritis, two years of intra-articular triamcinolone, compared with intra-articular saline, resulted in significantly greater cartilage volume loss and no significant difference in knee pain. These findings do not support this treatment for patients with symptomatic knee osteoarthritis.” (4)
  • And in 2011, researchers revealed evidence of consistent and significant damage to cartilage cells from corticosteroid injections. (5)

As you can see, even in the past decade, science has shown that cortisone is damaging to joint structures.

Now What, Since Cortisone Makes Arthritis Worse? 

Hopefully, the physicians who commonly treat patients with corticosteroids will educate themselves on these dangers and stop recommending the treatment. In the meantime, patients can protect themselves and choose treatments that repair rather than damage the joint.

We continue to offer treatments that regenerate and repair the joint. Regenerative Orthopedics, like Stem Cell Therapy, PRP, and Prolotherapy, work by repairing the arthritic joint. These treatments heal the joints, strengthen the structures of the joints, and even boost cartilage growth.

Regenerative Orthopedics regenerates the joint. The treatments do not cause the degeneration that occurs with cortisone injections. Additionally, there is also minimal downtime needed when receiving these regenerative treatments. That means you can continue to exercise and move the joint, which is essential for a healthy joint. Exercise helps ease pain, improve mobility, and strengthen muscles around the joints.

Choose Regenerative Orthopedics to achieve the pain relief you desire, and get back to the activities you enjoy doing.


(1) PR Newswire. NSAIDs May Worsen Arthritis Inflammation. Accessed 12/2/22.

(2) PR Newswire. Steroid Injections Worsen Knee Arthritis. Accessed 12/2/22.

(3) Kompel AJ, Roemer FW, Murakami AM, Diaz LE, Crema MD, Guermazi A. Intra-articular Corticosteroid Injections in the Hip and Knee: Perhaps Not as Safe as We Thought? Radiology, 2019; 190341

(4) McAlindon TE, LaValley MP, Harvey WF, Price LL, Driban JB, Zhang M, Ward RJ. Effect of Intra-articular Triamcinolone vs Saline on Knee Cartilage Volume and Pain in Patients With Knee OsteoarthritisA Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA. 2017;317(19):1967-1975.

(5) Dragoo JL, Danial CM, Braun HJ, Pouliot MA, Kim HJ. The chondrotoxicity of single-dose corticosteroids. Knee Surg Sports Traumatol Arthrosc. 2012 Sep;20(9):1809-14. doi: 10.1007/s00167-011-1820-6. Epub 2011 Dec 21. PMID: 22186921.