What exercises can I do after a cortisone shot in my shoulder? Can I go to physical therapy?

by | Mar 8, 2023 | Blog | 0 comments

Cortisone shots are injections that contain a dose of a hormone called cortisone, mixed with an analgesic. They’re a type of steroid that is frequently used for chronic pain in the joints. They’re common among patients with arthritis and other inflammatory conditions and can be administered just about anywhere in the body where there are joints.

So, you’ve just come back from your physician’s office after receiving a dose of cortisone in your shoulder. But, once you got home you realized that you forgot to ask your physician a few more important questions — What physical activities can and can’t I do immediately after getting my shot? How long do I have to wait before returning to normal activities?

If you’ve got a busy schedule and a callback from the medical office during business hours can’t wait, what should you do? You can take a look at some of our recommendations and other information on physical exercise after getting a cortisone shot in your shoulder joint.

What types of conditions are cortisone shots commonly used to treat?

  • Rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Osteoarthritis.
  • Joint pain.
  • Tendinitis.
  • Bursitis.
  • Shoulder impingement.
  • Gout.

How long should you refrain from activity and exercise after a cortisone shot in your shoulder?

After you’ve gotten a cortisone shot in your shoulder, it’s generally recommended that you avoid all heavy exercise and movements for a minimum of two weeks. After at least two weeks, patients who have received a cortisone shot to a joint are then able to begin gentle exercise and should do so as they’re able. Even if you may feel better before that time, you still want to exercise caution because the numbing effects of the shots may cause you to do more harm than good.

Please note that this is a general recommendation; it’s up to your physician and your physical therapist to decide what works best for your unique situation. Certain health factors may cause your health care provider to recommend a different course of action.

What are some of the risks that are associated with cortisone shots? 

  • Damage to cartilage.
  • Damage to a nerve.
  • Infection in the joints.
  • Increased inflammation and pain.
  • Damage to tendons.
  • Damage to bones.
  • Changes in blood glucose.

What types of exercise and activity do physical therapists usually recommend to start with?

  • Gentle strengthening exercises — You’ll want to start with slow, light strengthening movements to build muscle strength around your shoulder joint. It’s not a good idea to start lifting heavy weights soon after your corticosteroid injection. A physical therapist can help you through gentle strengthening exercises that are beneficial to your shoulder.
  • Range-of-motion exercises — Your physical therapist may also recommend and guide you through a series of exercises designed to improve your range of motion. Range of motion in your shoulder is important so that you can move without pain and discomfort. A physical therapy expert will help you perform exercises like flexion and extension movements.

How long does a cortisone shot in your shoulder last?

There is no set time that cortisone shots will last. How long they work can depend on a variety of causes and factors, but it’s worth noting that relief from a cortisone shot is not permanent. It’s estimated that these injections can last anywhere from six weeks to six months.

It’s also important to note that the number of cortisone shots you can receive in a joint is limited, due to several risk factors mentioned above. Your physician should be able to answer any questions you have.

Does getting a cortisone shot in your shoulder cause pain?

If you’ve already gotten a cortisone shot in your shoulder before, you probably already know the answer to this question. Yes, cortisone shots can cause pain. Patients will sometimes report pain not only from the needle but also from the cortisone after it’s been injected. Cortisone has been known to cause temporary cases of increased pain and inflammation. However, this pain and inflammation will usually go down after about two days or so.

How can physical therapy help you after getting a cortisone shot?

Are you searching for alternative forms of treatment so that you don’t have to keep getting cortisone shots and easing back into physical activity after each injection? If you’d prefer not to keep relying on cortisone shots for relief — or if your doctor says you have reached the maximum number of shots you can receive — you have options. There are other treatment methods available to you that can help reduce inflammation and pain, like physical therapy. Physical therapy is beneficial for several reasons, which you can read more about in the bulleted points below.

  • It’s within your pain threshold — Physical therapists work to resolve health issues or minimize their effects all within your pain threshold. Physical therapy should never be causing you more pain than you feel you can endure. It’s designed to be a gentle yet effective manner of treating injuries and health conditions for improved quality of life.
  • It’s less invasive — Physical therapy is a relatively noninvasive treatment option. It can reduce pain and inflammation without the use of needles or incisions. Cortisone shots are less invasive and painful than surgical procedures, but they’re still slightly invasive. Physical therapists generally aren’t going to rely on invasive procedures to provide you with the relief you need. They can use gentle movements and exercises to reach the same kind of desired results.


  • It’s more of a whole-body approach — Physical therapists don’t target just one problem area or a particular symptom. They know that injuries and health conditions that cause pain and inflammation are best managed when addressing several interconnected factors. They’ll work to minimize any pain or bothersome symptoms through a whole-body approach. For example, if you’re dealing with a herniated disc in your spine, they’ll probably want to also work on improving your posture, building core muscle strength and reducing as much inflammation as possible. Unlike a cortisone shot that targets a symptom rather than the cause, physical therapy focuses on several relevant aspects during treatment.


  • It’s less intimidating — Physical therapy can be effective for many different kinds of patients because it’s less intimidating. A lot of people find themselves intimidated by needles and strange substances being injected into their bodies. It makes sense to be a little apprehensive. But physical therapy can be a less intimidating alternative to cortisone shots when it’s realistically presented as a gentle yet effective alternative to injections.
  • Its effects last longer with regular upkeep — Physical therapy is also valuable because its effects can last for a long time. With cortisone shots, it’s likely that multiple injections will be needed to keep inflammation at bay over time. Physical therapy also necessitates regular sessions, but it allows for a person to build up strength and prevent future or worsening inflammation over time. The benefits of physical therapy can compound, while cortisone shots will provide limited benefits for a shorter period of time. It’s also more reliable to deal with regular physical therapy sessions because the number of shots you can receive is limited.

Forever Fit Physical Therapy & Wellness is ready to help you safely perform physical activity after a cortisone shot

Our team at Forever Fit Physical Therapy & Wellness can offer you a physical therapy experience that is catered to you. We value our patients so much that we strive to provide each one with a personalized treatment plan that adapts to their individual lifestyles, habits and future goals.

If you’re wondering when you can return to normal physical activity after receiving a cortisone shot, we can guide you through the treatment plan you need to get back on your feet. We will work with you toward the relief you’re looking for at any one of our several locations. We can help you get through any pain you may have while improving your range of motion, so you can get back to doing the things you love. If you’re interested in treatments for your condition not involving cortisone shots, we provide those too.

During each of your physical therapy sessions, our physical therapists will navigate you through your treatment with compassion and care. We’re dedicated to determining that you are doing each one of your exercises and movements with precision for the best possible results. We can provide you with the tools you’ll need to manage your condition on your own, long after your sessions are over. If you’re not confident in the ability of cortisone shots to relieve your inflammation and pain long-term, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We believe that physical therapy can provide a lot more benefits to your condition than steroid injections.

Are you ready to take the first step toward returning to exercise after a cortisone shot? Do you want to learn more about the physical therapy approach and how we might go about treating your unique condition?

Contact our team today for more information or to schedule an initial appointment.

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