Steroid injections can be a life-altering treatment for those suffering from an injury or arthritis, but with the demand for specialist procedures and healthcare waiting times in the UK being ever on the rise, securing an appointment can often feel incredibly challenging.

If you’ve been considering going private as a result of this issue, you might be wondering whether the upfront costs of doing so are worth it. Fortunately, there are a number of benefits to choosing an independent healthcare provider to perform a steroid injection procedure, and in this blog we’ll discuss what you can expect from a private health appointment.

About Steroid Injections

If you’ve never been given a steroid injection before, you might be wondering how they work. In short, steroid injections (also referred to as corticosteroid injections) are anti-inflammatory medicines used to treat a range of conditions, including joint pain, arthritis, sciatica and inflammatory bowel disease. Your healthcare provider might also administer it if your joint pain has gotten worse and other treatments aren’t working, or if you require short-term pain relief while you wait to start long-term treatment. Corticosteroid injections are not to be confused with anabolic steroid injections, which are more commonly known to be used illegally by some people to increase their muscle mass.

How It Works

Steroid injections can only be given by a specially-trained healthcare professional. They closely copy the effects of hormones produced by the adrenal glands, the two small glands found above your kidneys. The needle is typically injected directly into the inflamed joint, wherein it works to fight against substances that cause inflammation and damage tissue. You can also have the injection into the surrounding soft tissue, which is effective at relieving pressure and reducing any pain or swelling.

There are several different strands of steroid that can be used for joint injections, including hydrocortisone, triamcinolone and methylprednisolone. Methylprednisolone and triamcinolone are considered to be stronger than hydrocortisone.

How It Helps

Although steroid injections won’t cure the underlying condition affecting your joint in the first place, it is designed to ease the associated symptoms. They are typically used alongside other treatments, such as medicine and physiotherapy. If you’re undergoing the latter, steroid injections might help you to cope better and get the most out of it.

While some injections work within a few hours and last for around a week, others take up to a week to start working but then last for a couple of months or more. In some cases, depending on what the root cause of the inflammation is, the injection may be enough to fix the problem. If not, however, you can have injections every three months if you need them. It’s advisable to not have any more than three to four injections per year in any one joint because there’s a chance that it could lead to further damage.

The Procedure

The healthcare professional carrying out the injection will examine the joint and clean your skin with an antiseptic wipe. Oftentimes a local anaesthetic will be offered to prevent any severe pain. This will either be injected into your skin before the steroid, or mixed in with the steroid in a single needle.

The medicine will be injected into the inflamed area of your joint. For certain joints, your healthcare provider may use an ultrasound during the procedure to help guide the needle into the precise spot. You may feel a tightness or pressure when you have the injection.

Your healthcare provider might also remove (or aspirate) any fluid in the joint during the same procedure using a syringe. This is most commonly done in the case of swollen knees to make the joint more comfortable.

Who Can Have Steroid Injections?

Almost anyone can have steroid injections, but you should tell your doctor if you:

  • have had a steroid injection in the last few weeks – typically you need to wait 3 months between injections.
  • have had 4 injections in the last year – doctors recommend no more than 4 doses in the same 12-month period.
  • have had an allergic reaction to steroids in the past.
  • have an infection (including eye infections).
  • have recently had, or are about to have, any vaccinations.
  • are pregnant, breastfeeding or trying to conceive.
  • have any other health conditions, such as diabetes, epilepsy, high blood pressure or problems with your heart, liver or kidneys.
  • are taking other medicines, such as anticoagulants.

Steroids might not always be appropriate if you have any of the above, but your doctor might still recommend them if the benefits outweigh any risks.

The Benefits of Going Private

No matter what your healthcare journey has looked like so far, there might come a time when seeking out private healthcare becomes the best solution for you. Here’s why:

Better Quality Care

At a private healthcare facility, there are typically better provisions for medical care of all kinds. This comes down to the fact that staff members and services are simply not as strained as they are within the NHS. Some specialist medicines and treatment programmes are not state-funded, and as a result are only available privately – especially if the treatment is new or experimental. For some patients, this might mean that private care can provide vital medical support that would otherwise not be available.

Shorter Waiting Times

If you’re in a great deal of pain, chances are you simply can’t wait weeks, or even months, to access the treatment you need. An independent healthcare provider will typically be able to give you a consultation within a few short days of getting in touch. This means that you can start your treatment plan as soon as possible, getting you back to improved health in no time.

Flexible Payment Options

Private healthcare branches often have payment options available to help you manage your costs. Whether you choose to pay on the day, spread the cost, or use your private medical insurance, your healthcare provider will be able to guide you through the process, providing clear cost breakdowns and supporting you through your course of treatment.

More Control Over Your Care

With a state-funded service, there’s frequently limited room for choice when it comes to the care you receive, and this is often only equipped to NHS provide a specific range of treatments. At a private practice, you will have more autonomy when it comes to tailoring your care plan to your requirements. This means choosing when you want to be treated and which doctor will oversee your care plan.

More Comfortable Experience

A private hospital or surgery is designed with comfort and luxury in mind; hotel-like hospital rooms will naturally be of a better standard than an NHS ward, which may be shared and lacking in privacy. Private services will have individual rooms readily available. Catering services are also of a better quality than those offered at a state-funded facility.

Improved Customer Service

With more funds and manpower to spare, private services can offer a more personalised and thorough level of customer service to their patients. This means a far superior ease in accessing doctors appointments without spending long intervals on the phone or in queues. A private practice can also offer more locations and out-of-hours services to make it easier to access essential healthcare – a big plus for patients with chronic pain or accessibility issues.

Book a Private GP Consultation with Duality Health

If you’re ready to tackle your joint pain head on with the health of an independent healthcare service, Duality Health can help. We are proud to offer all steroid injections via ‘Gold-Standard’ Ultrasound-Guided injections. The benefit of a high-resolution ultrasound is the specificity of our diagnostic scan: we can see the offending pathology; determine exactly what structures are involved; directly observe needle placement & the precise infiltration of medication into exactly the desired spot.

In our opinion, injections performed by touch alone simply do not compare to the clinical accuracy achieved whilst using a high definition scanner. We can offer you rapid access to joint injection procedures and are happy to take referrals from patients or their clinician – no referral letter is necessary. When you book a private health appointment with us, you’ll benefit from competitive pricing, state-of-the-art facilities, short waiting times and a team of experienced, compassionate healthcare professionals who are here to facilitate your pain relief.

If you’re not sure whether a steroid injection is the most appropriate solution for you, book a consultation with one of our private GPs for more information.