Intra-articular steroids and splints/rest for children with juvenile idiopathic arthritis and adults with rheumatoid arthritis

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2006 Jan 25;(1):CD002824. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD002824.pub2.


Background: Resting or immobilizing a joint to enhance outcomes following intra-articular (IA) steroid injection is generally advocated. This systematic review aimed to determine the efficacy of IA steroid injections and the influence of post-injection rest.

Objectives: 1. Compare IA steroid injections versus no treatment or placebo. 2. Determine the effects of rest following IA steroid injection in rheumatoid or juvenile idiopathic arthritis.

Search strategy: The Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL- Issue 4, 2003), Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (CDSR - Issue 4, 2003), Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effectiveness (DARE - searched 8.1.04), MEDLINE (1966 to August Week 2 2004), EMBASE (1980 to August Week 2 2004) , CINAHL (1982 to December Week 2 2003), Clinical Trials site of the National Institute of Health, (USA - searched 8.1.04), OTseeker (Occupational Therapy Systematic Evaluation of Evidence - searched 8.1.04) and PEDro (Physiotherapy Evidence Database - searched 8.1.04) were searched. Journals and reference lists were hand searched.

Selection criteria: Eligible were randomised controlled trials of IA steroid injections or of rest following IA steroid injections in rheumatoid or juvenile idiopathic arthritis.

Data collection and analysis: Potentially relevant references were evaluated and all data extracted by two independent reviewers.

Main results: Five trials (n=346) examining IA steroid injection in the knee joint were included. It was not possible to pool data as outcome measures, timing of follow up and the methods of data reporting differed between trials. There was inconclusive conflicting evidence from two trials that walking time was reduced. There was evidence from one moderate quality trial that pain was reduced at 1-day post-injection (0-100 VAS from 28.33 to 13.46; McGill Pain Scale from 8.89 to 3.96) but not at 1 week or 7-12 weeks post-injection. There is some evidence that IA injections improved knee flexion (by 14 degrees) and reduced knee extension lag (by 20 degrees), knee circumference (median reduction = 0.3 cm) and morning stiffness (reduced from 60 mins to 7.6 mins). One trial (n=91) examined the effects of rest following injection in the knee. The rested group achieved significant improvement in pain, stiffness, knee circumference, and walking time when compared with the non-rested group (no point estimates provided). One trial evaluated rest following injection of the wrist (n=117). Relapse rate was higher in the rested group (rest relapse rate = 24/58, no-rest group = 14/59); but there were no differences between the rested and non-rested groups on pain, joint circumference, wrist function, grip strength or ROM.

Authors' conclusions: There is some evidence to support the use of IA steroid injections and resting a knee following injections but that wrists should not be rested following injections. The included studies involved adult participants so any conclusions can only cautiously applied to children. Further research is required to examine the use and type of rest and the differential responses of different joints following injections.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arthritis, Juvenile / drug therapy
  • Arthritis, Juvenile / therapy
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / drug therapy
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / therapy*
  • Child
  • Combined Modality Therapy / methods
  • Glucocorticoids / administration & dosage*
  • Humans
  • Injections, Intra-Articular
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Splints*


  • Glucocorticoids