Injection Treatments for Osteoarthritis: What You Need to Know

One of the most common places osteoarthritis (OA) can strike is the knees.  That chronic pain can prevent you from being as active as you’d like to be, but what are your options when nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs no longer work?

physician prepares corticosteroid injection

Recent clinical studies on osteoarthritis have shown that some of the best treatment options for managing your OA pain are corticosteroid and hyaluronic acid injections. These injection treatments were found to be more effective at treating pain in the knees than other treatments.

Osteoarthritis Injection Treatments

Although knee injection treatments may not be the best option for everyone with OA, they can be highly effective in relieving pain. If you have not been able to manage your OA pain with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin or ibuprofen, you may want to consider injection treatments.

There are two forms of injections commonly used in treating pain and inflammation in the knees from osteoarthritis:

  • Corticosteroid injections
  • Hyaluronic acid injections

How do knee injections work? The process will begin with your doctor numbing your knee, using an anesthetic shot. Once the area is numb, any extra fluid in your knee will be drained using a needle in a process known as aspiration. After the extra fluid has been drained and your knee is sufficiently numb, the actual medication will be administered.

Your doctor will typically administer the injection right below the kneecap. Often ultrasound is used to make sure the shot is administered in precisely the right location. While this may not be a pleasant thing to think about, don’t worry, you should not feel any pain from the shot. Once injected, the shot should be effective in relieving pain throughout the joint within a couple of days.

Corticosteroid (Cortisone) Injections

The main purpose of corticosteroid injections is to help reduce inflammation in the joint. This, in turn, helps reduce the amount of pain caused by your osteoarthritis. The upside of corticosteroid injections are that they are faster at relieving pain than hyaluronic acid injections are. However, the pain-relieving effects of corticosteroid injections do not last as long as the effects of hyaluronic acid injections.

While corticosteroid injections may not be effective for everyone, for some, they not only improve knee pain, but also allow for better movement of the joint itself. If you have suffered a lot of damage to your knee, these injections may not prove as effective as they are for other people and some may find no relief from these shots at all.

Although most people who get corticosteroid injections experience relief, the relief from pain is not permanent. Typically, the effects of the injection will start to wear off several weeks to a couple months after you received the injection.

Once you begin to feel the effects of the corticosteroid injection starting to dissipate, you may want to ask your doctor for another shot immediately. However, you should only get corticosteroid injections once every three to four months. Your risks for side effects caused by corticosteroid injections greatly increases by having too many injections within a short period of time.

Possible side effects from corticosteroid steroid injections include:

  • Infection
  • Bones around the knee may become thinner
  • Blood sugar levels become increased
  • Damage to the nerves in the area
  • Joint irritation

Pros and Cons of Using Corticosteroid injections

Corticosteroid injections can be a very effective treatment for osteoarthritis pain in your knee, but they can also have some downsides to them as well.

The pros to getting corticosteroid injections include:

  • Corticosteroid injections are highly effective in relieving OA knee pain
  • The injections also help reduce inflammation within the joint
  • You may experience improved mobility within the joint
  • Not only can corticosteroids help with OA pain, they can also be used in treating carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis, and even tennis elbow.
  • Only one shot is needed at a time

While the pros for corticosteroids are compelling, they are not without there cons, such as:

  • Pain relief from corticosteroid injections only lasts a few weeks to a couple months
  • Injections should not be given frequently
  • There are risks for side effects, such as nerve damage and infection
  • Repeated injections can lead to hypercortisolism, a condition which can cause weak bones, obesity, bruising, trouble healing, and more.

If you find that corticosteroid injections are not improving your pain or are looking for another method of treatment, you may want to consider trying hyaluronic acid injections.

Hyaluronic Acid Injections

Did you know hyaluronic acid is a very important substance in the movement of your joints? That’s right! It helps to lubricate your joints, allowing the bones to move more freely without grinding together. Hyaluronic acid also functions as a shock absorber, cushioning your joints from excess force.

Osteoarthritis causes a decrease of hyaluronic acid in the joints which leads to more intense joint pain and stiffer joints. The function of hyaluronic acid injections is to increase the amount of hyaluronic acid in the joint. This helps relieve pain, lubricates the joint, and can even reduce inflammation within your joint.

If you are considering hyaluronic acid injections, you should know that one to five shots might be needed to complete the treatment, and effects of the treatment can take several weeks to be felt.

The specific brand of hyaluronic acid injection your doctor chooses to use will determine just how many shots will be needed for one treatment. These shots are given at an interval of one week, so you may need to make a few return visits to your doctor to complete one treatment.

After treatment has been completed, you may not feel pain relief for several weeks. However, after the pain-relieving effects of the treatment begin to take hold, they normally last for around six months. You should wait 6 months before getting a second round of injections, even if your knee pain begins to return beforehand.

Like corticosteroid injections, hyaluronic acid injections also come with the risk of side effects. Some mild side effects that are commonly experience after injections are:

  • Swelling of the joint
  • Mild bruising
  • Pain at the injection site
  • A feeling of warmth in the joint

However, some people may experience more severe side effects, such as:

  • Intense pain
  • Severe swelling in the joint
  • A rash

Pros and Cons of Using Hyaluronic Acid Injections

Just like with corticosteroid injections, hyaluronic acid injections has its own set of pros and cons.

Pros for using hyaluronic acid injections include:

  • The treatment is effective in relieving knee pain caused by OA
  • Hyaluronic acid helps lubricate the joint allowing for more mobility
  • Injections help to prevent further wear and tear of the joint
  • Hyaluronic acid can also reduce inflammation

Some of the cons of using hyaluronic acid injections are:

  • You may need up to five injections for one treatment, spaced a week apart
  • It can take several weeks for the effects of the treatment to be felt
  • There is a risk for side effects, such as swelling and intense pain

Talking to Your Doctor About Getting Injections for OA

Before deciding to go ahead with one of these injections as treatment, make sure you talk with your doctor to decide the right course of action for you. Discussing your osteoarthritis knee pain with your doctor will help them determine what the best form of treatment for you is.

It is important to note that these injections will not work as a cure for OA knee pain. The main purpose of these injections is to help you manage the pain caused by osteoarthritis. Keep in mind, there are other things you can do to help manage you OA knee pain, beyond medication. You should consider making the appropriate lifestyle changes, such as exercising and losing weight, to improve your symptoms as well.

Osteoarthritis Clinical Trials in Port Orange

As a condition that affects so many in Florida, Accord Clinical Research is committed to developing new treatments for this age-old problem. We are currently conducting osteoarthritis clinical trials at our clinic in Port Orange, Florida and looking to enroll volunteers for upcoming studies.

physician explains to woman what is causing her osteoarthritis

All patient related care is provided free of charge. Compensation for time and travel may also be provided for patients who complete a clinical trial with us. If you are interested in taking part in one of our upcoming clinical studies, please check out our patient resource center, or give us a call at (386) 760-7272.



Submit form to get started