Did you know that your body naturally produces hyaluronic acid? Hyaluronic acid is a key component of the thick, natural fluid that keeps our joints lubricated and cushioned to ensure they work smoothly. Osteoarthritis is a form of degenerative joint disease that causes joint pain and immobility and occurs when the slick cartilage that protects the ends of individual bones erodes over time.
Knee osteoarthritis is a common variant of the disease. It is often accompanied by symptoms such as knee pain, disintegrated cartilage, and insufficient hyaluronic acid. If you suffer from this disease, your joint injury specialist may administer hyaluronic acid injections to boost your joint’s natural production. Medical professionals call these injections “viscosupplementation” as they help supplement the body’s natural joint fluid supply.
Depending on the hyaluronic acid brand your sports medicine doctor prefers, you may receive one injection or 3-5 injections spread out a few weeks apart. Regardless of the brand, doctors administer the injection the same way.
Your doctor will begin by cleaning the affected knee. If it is inflamed and full of excess fluid, your doctor may inject a local anesthetic, then proceed to extract the excess fluid using a needle and syringe. After draining the knee sufficiently to relieve pain and reduce the pressure, your doctor can finally inject the hyaluronic acid.
For optimal results, avoid prolonged weight-bearing activities several days following your injection. You may resume normal activities a week or two after the injection depending on the severity of your arthritis.
How Does the Injection Work?
Once injected, hyaluronic acid temporarily increases the viscosity of the fluid in the affected joint. The fluid then acts as a lubricant, reducing friction and pain and enhancing joint mobility. Hyaluronic acid molecules may also stimulate the body’s mechanisms to naturally produce hyaluronic acid for long-term protection and prevent the transmission of pain signals by covering specific nerve endings.
The Benefits of Hyaluronic Acid Injections for Knee Pain Treatment
Years of research support the use of hyaluronic acid as a form of regenerative medicine for osteoarthritis treatment. Hyaluronic acid’s viscosity helps alleviate pain and inflammation while aiding the body’s process of regenerating damaged cartilage and bone.
Although injected hyaluronic acid stays in the target joint for a few days, its positive effects can last for months. Such extended pain relief not only suppresses most symptoms but also modifies the disease’s process. Some potential benefits of using this injection as an osteoarthritis treatment include:
Hyaluronic acid is a highly viscous substance, making it an effective lubricant and shock absorber when injected into the affected knee. Its viscosity reduces friction within the knee, hence mitigating pain, stiffness and preventing the degeneration of bone, cartilage and other surrounding tissues.
- Pain Relief
In some instances, hyaluronic acid may form a protective barrier around pain receptors, consequently preventing the transmission of pain signals to the brain. By binding to knee cells that signal pain, hyaluronic acid molecules effectively alleviate pain.
- Cartilage Growth and Protection
Hyaluronic acid enhances the body’s cartilage formation process by protecting existing chondrocytes (cartilage-producing cells) and stimulating the growth of new chondrocytes.
- Natural Hyaluronic Acid Production
These injections can provide long-term knee health by restoring the body’s ability to produce hyaluronic acid.
- Bone and Cartilage Strengthening
Hyaluronic acid strengthens existing cartilage by producing essential carbohydrates (glycosaminoglycans) and proteins (proteoglycans). The injections also alter the subchondral bone’s (the bone directly below the cartilage) density and thickness, which may protect the cartilage from excess stress during weight-bearing activities that involve the knee.
Research proves that hyaluronic acid provides anti-inflammatory benefits, including reduced inflammation, swelling and pain in the knee.
Who Can Get Knee Arthritis Injections?
Most patients typically try conservative treatments like physical therapy, weight loss, steroid injections and NSAID medications before resorting to knee arthritis injections. You may be a potential candidate for these injections if:
- You suffer from moderate knee arthritis symptoms that hamper your daily activities.
- Pain medications are not a viable option because you risk suffering from adverse side effects, have minimal benefits to gain from painkillers or have certain conditions that prevent you from taking pain medication, e.g., diabetes and high blood pressure.
- You received a knee arthritis injection in the past and experienced signs of improvement after the initial round of treatment.
- You are ineligible for surgery, do not like the idea of surgery or would like to postpone surgery.
Although patients of any age can get this treatment, it is typically more effective for people under 65.
What Results Should You Expect?
Although results vary by patient, you should experience significant pain relief anywhere from 4 to 12 weeks after the injection. The positive effects should last for up to 6 months, and you may receive additional rounds of treatment as seen necessary by your doctor’s assessment.
Thanks to knee arthritis injections, you no longer have to live with unbearable knee pain or pay for an expensive surgery that may not work. If you reside in Portland, Oregon or the surrounding suburban area, and would like assistance with your joint pain, contact our offices at Sports Health Northwest to book an appointment.
The sports medicine doctors at our joint preservation clinic have vast experience in regenerative therapies and countless success stories to show for their excellent work. Visit our website today for further information on how we can help you solve your joint issues.