Osteoarthritis affects over 32 million adults in the United States. It can happen in any joint but is most common in the hands, hips, and knees. Symptoms include pain, stiffness, reduced range of motion, and swelling. Unlike rheumatoid arthritis, which is caused by an autoimmune disease, osteoarthritis is caused by wear and tear. Some people may have genetic or lifestyle risk factors, like obesity, that put them at higher risk.
Osteoarthritis is caused by cartilage degeneration. As it progresses, it leads to bone spurs and often requires surgery, especially when it affects weight-bearing joints like the hips and knees. Even at moderate stages, it can cause chronic pain and disability.
Over-the-counter pain relievers and at-home treatments like hot and cold therapy and exercise can mitigate arthritis symptoms, but none of these treatments slow progression or result in long-term pain relief.
Joint Injections are the most effective treatments for arthritis pain, especially knee and hip pain. Injections can lubricate joints, reduce inflammation and promote healing. They can’t cure arthritis, but they can make it more manageable and prevent daily use of OTC medications.
Here are four joint injections that can releive arthritis pain.
1. Cortisone Shots
Cortisone has been around for decades and is an effective treatment for patients whose arthritis is causing acute swelling and pain. Cortisone is a form of the body’s natural stress hormone, which can suppress inflammation. It begins to work within about 72 hours, and relief can last for one to three months, depending on the type of cortisone shot. They work well for people who are experiencing a temporary flare-up and need relief right away. Cortisone is routinely used in more joints than some other injections on this list. It can even be used in small joints in the fingers.
The downside to cortisone is its long-term side effects. While the risk can vary from patient to patient, giving more than three or four shots per year is generally considered unsafe. This is because frequent, long-term exposure can cause damage to tissues within and around the joint. Cortisone shots are beneficial for those who require shorter-term, fast-acting relief.
2. HA Injections
Hyaluronic acid is a substance produced by the body to plump skin and lubricate joints. As we age, we produce less of it. This causes the fluid in our joints to thin. Like old motor oil, this thinned fluid lubricates less effectively and allows more friction-related damage. Hyaluronic acid injections relieve pain in patients with mild to moderate osteoarthritis and can even slow progression. Studies on patients with osteoarthritis of the knee have found that HA provided long-term pain relief.
Since hyaluronic acid injections support a natural process, they can take several weeks to begin relieving pain. During that time, the HA is coating nerves, working to reduce inflammation and relubricating the cartilage. After relief begins, it can last up to six months. Hyaluronic acid is safe, and there is no limit on the number of injections a patient can receive.
3. Platelet-Rich Plasma Injections
Also called PRP, this treatment uses healing cells from the patient’s own blood to reduce inflammation and slow arthritis progression. To begin the procedure, your provider will take a sample of your blood and process it in a centrifuge to separate the red blood cells from the clear plasma and platelets. Then they will take the platelets and a small amount of plasma and inject them into the knee or other affected area.
One of the reasons joints are so prone to degeneration is a lack of circulation. The body needs healing cells brought to the injury via blood flow. By injecting platelets into the area, we can remedy this circulation problem. Like HA, PRP shots support a natural process, and results don’t occur overnight. After your injection (s), you’ll notice results within four to six weeks. The healing process and pain relief will continue to advance for several months, and relief can last up to a year before a “booster” shot is needed. PRP is also safe, and there are no limits on how many times it can be done. It is an excellent long-term treatment for those looking to slow progression and mitigate pain for years. It can even help some patients avoid or postpone surgery.
When used together, PRP and HA provide an even greater benefit. The double anti-inflammatory action, lubrication, and healing provided by both can slow progression and relieve pain better than either one used alone.
Advantages of Injections
Unlike oral medications, injections don’t have to travel through your whole system; they only impact the joint. Oral NSAIDs, like aspirin and ibuprofen, and oral steroids, can cause stomach upset and even gastrointestinal bleeding. Taking these drugs daily for years can also lead to liver and kidney problems. Even though cortisone injections have some risks with long-term use, they are safe in the short term and don’t affect your digestive tract or other organs. They can also be more effective for severe inflammation than oral medications.
Hyaluronic acid and PRP injections are even safer than steroid injections. Any injection carries a slight risk of infection or bleeding, but when administered by a licensed provider, these side effects are extremely rare. HA and PRP provide safe, effective, and long-lasting pain relief. Unlike other treatments, they don’t just cover up symptoms. They change the physiology of the joint and can slow degeneration. Using these therapies during the mild to moderate stages of osteoarthritis can delay or prevent painful bone-on-bone stages.
Injections for Arthritis in Houston
At Vanguard Spine and Sport, we provide several different injections for joint pain. We work with our patients to determine their ideal treatment plan to minimize pain and increase their quality of life. Schedule a consultation today to find out how joint injections can relieve your arthritis pain.