Is Your Joint Pain Worth a Shot?

Health Topics

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In the spectrum of treatments for osteoarthritis pain, injections made directly into the affected joint often prove to be the “Goldilocks choice” – not too much, not too little, just the right treatment. Injections aren’t as complicated as surgery, but can offer relief for many who find oral medication isn’t enough. 

The shot, a short-term solution to a chronic problem, delivers medicine right into your joint. It takes a few minutes and is done in your doctor’s office. 

Shots have proven beneficial to many osteoarthritis sufferers. But for some patients, injections provide little, if any, relief. Two types of injections are used routinely.

Corticosteroid or Steroid Injections 

Corticosteroids are medications that mimic the effects of the hormone cortisol, which is produced naturally by the adrenal glands. The purpose of the injection is to reduce the irritation caused by bone interacting directly with bone, the result of the smooth, cartilage interface that protected joint surfaces wearing away.

Corticosteroid or steroid injections, directed into the knee, hip, or other joint, may quickly ease swelling and pain. The benefits can last anywhere from a few days to a few months. Some patients, however, experience no change.  

Dr. Michael Raab explains the use of injections to treat joint pain.

Click play to watch the video or read video transcript.

Many find that these injections lack many of the side effects of oral corticosteroid medications. But steroid injections do have risks. Repeated knee injections may contribute to cartilage breakdown. For that reason, your health care provider will likely limit the number of injections you can receive in any one joint. 

The shot, a short-term solution to a chronic problem, delivers medicine right into your joint.

Dr. Matthew Lawless explains that corticosteroid injections can be repeatedly administered, so long as each shot brings several months of pain relief. 

Click play to watch the video or read video transcript.

Hyaluronic Acid Injections

Joint Pain small

These injections, also known as viscosupplements, are only for osteoarthritis in the knees. 

When your joint was healthy, a thick substance called synovial fluid provided lubrication so your bones could glide against one another. An injection of gel-like hyaluronic acid (one of the substances in synovial fluid) may help your knee joint work more smoothly again. 

Some enjoy pain relief and better movement after the shot, but others are not helped at all. Some research shows viscosupplementation has not been effective at significantly reducing pain or improving function. 

Depending on the product used, you’ll get one to five shots over several weeks.

If there’s any swelling in your knee, your doctor will remove (aspirate) excess fluids before injecting the hyaluronic acid. Usually (but not always), the aspiration and the injection are done using only one needle injected into the joint.

It's easy to get the care you need.

See a Premier Physician Network provider near you.