The CDC estimates that 1 in 4 US adults suffer from some form of arthritis. According to The Rheumatologist, about 250 million people are affected by knee osteoarthritis worldwide and approximately 14 million have been diagnosed with this disease in the US over the past twenty years. Arthritis is a serious health problem in the United States. Knee injections can help reduce pain in the knee caused by arthritis and increase mobility, allowing people to participate in more activities.

Why You Should Consider Knee Injections

Arthritis is a condition where swelling and tenderness occur in one or more joints. People will experience joint pain and stiffness that will generally get worse with age. One of the two most common types of arthritis is osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that involves the breakdown of cartilage in the joints causing the underlying bone to change. This causes damage to the joints and bone. Simple movements can be very painful. Arthritis can occur in any joint in the body but is very common in the knee. Thankfully there are options for anyone who wants to seek relief from knee pain triggered by arthritis. 

Knee injections are not a permanent solution, but they can help to significantly reduce pain from arthritis or osteoarthritis in the knee. If physical therapy or pain medications do not work then your doctor may want to try knee injections. This is a possible treatment that is meant to reduce the inflammation in the knee, which can cause pain. Patients may want to consider having knee injections before trying more drastic treatments, such as surgery, which is invasive and has a long recovery time. 

Types of Knee Injections for Arthritis

There are currently several types of injections for arthritic knees, but it is up to your doctor as to which one is best for you. Not every type of injection will work for every patient. Doctors will evaluate your medical history and your specific knee pain history to determine the best approach for treatment. Based on your doctor’s treatment plan, one of the following injections may be incorporated to relieve your knee pain.   

  • Corticosteroid Injections: Cortisone injections for knee osteoarthritis are one of the more mainstream forms of treatment and are often the first line of treatment that doctors will opt for when administering an injection. Shots of corticosteroids, also known as steroid shots, are a strong anti-inflammatory medication that reduces pain and swelling and can bring long-lasting relief to patients. Corticosteroids operate similarly to the naturally occurring hormone cortisol. Some doctors may choose to add a small amount of local anesthesia along with the corticosteroid injection to provide immediate, short-term relief. Once the corticosteroid has been injected into the joint it should start to work in about two to three days. While some people may not experience any relief at all, those who do can see reduced symptoms for as long as six months.  
  • Hyaluronic Acid Injections: Another well-known type of knee shot for arthritis is hyaluronic acid injections(which doctors may use if corticosteroid injections have not worked). However, the research has not consistently shown these injections to be effective for everyone in reducing pain and improving function. So, just like any other form of treatment, some people may benefit and others may not. Many doctors believe in their effectiveness though and may use them first if there are no obvious signs of inflammation. For this procedure, a gel-like substance called hyaluronic acid is injected into the joint. Hyaluronic acid is a substance that is found in the synovial fluid, which surrounds the joint and acts as a natural lubricant and shock absorber. Hyaluronic acid tends to wear away as people age and osteoarthritis can speed up this process. So, the point of hyaluronic acid is to replace what has been lost to make movement easier and ease pain.    
  • Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) Injections: This type of injection has been gaining popularity over the years and is especially popular in sports therapy. Platelet-rich plasma injection therapy is based on the body’s inherent healing functions. Attempting to mimic this same naturally occurring function, PRP therapy can be utilized to treat osteoarthritis. Blood is made of two parts. Plasma is the liquid portion of blood and platelets are blood cells that cause blood to clot and spur on the healing process. So, doctors will draw some of the patient’s blood separate the plasma and platelets, and create the injection with both components. Your physician will then inject the platelet-rich plasma into the knee to encourage the damaged tissue to start healing. This kind of injection is not recommended by the American College of Rheumatology and Arthritis Foundation to treat knee osteoarthritis, as there is a lack of standardization of this treatment. 
  • Botox Injections: Most people associate Botox with injections to the face to create a more smooth and youthful look. However, botox injections have also been used to treat knee osteoarthritis by freezing the nerves that send pain signals to the brain. Research shows that botox injections may reduce symptoms for up to six months. Botox injections are not currently recommended by the American College of Rheumatology and Arthritis Foundation due to a small number of clinical trials. 
  • Fluid Aspiration: Considered a reverse injection and also known as arthrocentesis, this procedure involves removing excess fluid in the knee. Inflammation and swelling due to osteoarthritis can cause too much fluid to build up in the joint and restrict movement, causing further pain. After numbing up the area, the doctor will insert a needle into the joint and the fluid is pulled out of the knee, into a syringe. This procedure may offer relief for some patients for up to six months. This procedure is typically used to support other injection therapies and treatments.  

Side Effects of Knee Injections  

While knee injections can offer real and serious relief, they can also have side effects that you should be aware of before going through with the process. Side effects can include a low risk for infection at the site of the injection and cortisone shots should not be given more than a few times a year, as frequent use has been linked to weakening of the muscle and ligaments surrounding the knee. You may also need to stop taking anti-inflammatory medication for a while if you choose to receive  PRP injections. Hyaluronic acid injections can possibly increase inflammation in the knee and you may experience some slight pain around the injection site or a minor build-up of fluid in the joint. You should avoid any strenuous activity right after having an injection and use an ice pack for any slight pain or swelling. Be sure to speak with your doctor about potential risks before having knee injections. 

Start Getting Treated

If you find yourself suffering from severe knee pain, call Pain and Spine Specialists today! We are a team of highly qualified providers who will properly evaluate your symptoms and determine the best course of treatment. Let us help you return to a fully functioning life, free from pain.

Call us in Maryland at 301-703-8767 | View MD Providers), in Pennsylvania at 724-603-3560 (View PA Providers), or in Virginia (540-433-1905 | View VA Providers)to make an appointment or use the form on our site to send us a message.

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