Musculoskeletal injections: a review of the evidence

Am Fam Physician. 2008 Oct 15;78(8):971-6.


Injections are valuable procedures for managing musculoskeletal conditions commonly encountered by family physicians. Corticosteroid injections into articular, periarticular, or soft tissue structures relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and improve mobility. Injections can provide diagnostic information and are commonly used for postoperative pain control. Local anesthetics may be injected with corticosteroids to provide additional, rapid pain relief. Steroid injection is the preferred and definitive treatment for de Quervain tenosynovitis and trochanteric bursitis. Steroid injections can also be helpful in controlling pain during physical rehabilitation from rotator cuff syndrome and lateral epicondylitis. Intra-articular steroid injection provides pain relief in rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. There is little systematic evidence to guide medication selection for therapeutic injections. The medication used and the frequency of injection should be guided by the goal of the injection (i.e., diagnostic or therapeutic), the underlying musculoskeletal diagnosis, and clinical experience. Complications from steroid injections are rare, but physicians should understand the potential risks and counsel patients appropriately. Patients with diabetes who receive periarticular or soft tissue steroid injections should closely monitor their blood glucose for two weeks following injection.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / therapeutic use
  • Anesthetics, Local / therapeutic use
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome / drug therapy
  • Contraindications
  • Diabetes Complications
  • Humans
  • Injections, Intra-Articular*
  • Injections, Intramuscular*
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / drug therapy*


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • Anesthetics, Local