Corticosteroids can be given by injection or taken by mouth (oral steroids). Steroids effectively reduce swelling. Drugs in this category include:

  • Prednisone
  • Methylprednisolone

A shot of corticosteroids in a joint can relieve some pain for four to six months. Knee joints may be treated with hylan G-F20 (Synvisc®), but treatment requires three to five weekly injections. Relief from pain with these drugs may be slower to take effect but lasts longer than corticosteroids.

Oral steroids are usually taken only for one to two weeks. Serious side effects can occur if these types of drugs for a long time, including weight gain, stomach ulcers and corticosteroid-induced osteoporosis. If you're at risk for developing osteoporosis, your bone density should be measured before and during treatment. Steroids can make infections get worse and raise the level of sugar in the blood, so avoid them if you have an infection or diabetes.