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Once thought to worsen knee arthritis, steroid injections may actually improve symptoms and may be safe when used for long-term treatment. A recent study, the results of which were published in Arthritis and Rheumatism, followed 2 groups of patients, 1 group receiving steroid injections, the other receiving placebo injections. After 1 year, the group taking steroid injections experienced reduced knee pain, better range of motion, and no reduction of joint cartilage, which indicated that the steroids were not damaging the knee.
After 2 years, the group taking steroid injections had symptoms only slightly better than the placebo group, but there was still no damage to the cartilage. Side effects traditionally associated with steroid pills, such as osteoporosis and stomach ulcers, were not prevalent with steroid injections because the injections go directly into the joint and do not affect the entire body.