Osteoarthritis is one of the most common causes of disability in the United States. The condition develops slowly over time and pain worsens as it progresses. There is no cure for osteoarthritis, but there are many treatment options that make the pain manageable.
Early on arthritis can be easily treated with nonsurgical techniques. A doctor may recommend weight loss, physical therapy, corticosteroid injection, pain relievers or a change in activity.
Viscosupplementation is another viable treatment option. In this procedure, hyaluronic acid is injected into the knee joint. The substance is naturally occurring in the synovial fluid surrounding the joints. It functions as a lubricant and helps the bones move smoothly over each other. It also acts as a shock absorber for joint loads. Patients diagnosed with osteoarthritis have a lower than normal concentration of hyaluronic acid in their joints. Adding more to the arthritic joint will help increase movement and reduce pain.
Unfortunately, viscosupplementation isn’t effective in all patients, and some studies reveal low success rates.
Viscosupplementation treatment requires one to five shot over several weeks.
Before the procedure, if there is any swelling in your knee the doctor will remove (aspirate) excess fluids before injection hyaluronic acid. Although some doctors prefer to use two separate syringes, usually the aspiration and injection are done using on needle injected into the joint.
Following the procedure patients should avoid excessive weight bearing on the leg for up to 48 hours, including standing for long periods of time, lifting or jogging.
Some patients report pain, warmth and slight swelling after the shot. These symptoms don’t last long, and an ice pack can be used to ease the pain.
In rare cases, some patients may develop an allergy reaction in the knee.
Recovery & Results
Some patients don’t experience pain relief following viscosupplementation. Those who do feel relief report results several weeks following the procedure. Some patients report pain relief lasting for several months after injections. Some doctors repeat injections after six months if viscosupplementation helped the patient.
The effectiveness of viscosupplementation is up for debate, but some research has proposed that it is most effective if the arthritis is in its early stages.