“Ouch, my knee!”
These words are said all-too often by sufferers of early-onset arthritis, especially towards the end of August when all those outdoor runarounds really start to add up.
When simple anti-inflammatory medicine, ice, and rest are not enough to calm these episodes of knee pain and inflammation, there is yet another option: knee injections.
There are two types of knee injections:
- Cortisone injections
- Lubricant injections
For acute pain that requires fast relief, we recommend cortisone shots. They deliver anti-inflammatory and pain relieving medication directly into the knee joint, a process that works both faster and longer than pills, which have to work their way through the body and must be taken daily.
And though cortisone is a steroid, it has been found to be one of the safest forms of non-surgical treatment for individuals of all ages. Often all that is needed is one quick injection to experience relief for anywhere from 2 weeks to 3 months. The only downside is that it involves a needle!
The second most common form of knee injections are lubricant injections. They are not meant to treat short-term knee pain, but rather, they work to reduce long-term symptoms through the use of hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid is a lubricant that is naturally produced by the knee, so introducing a concentrated mixture into the joint helps add an additional buffer on the tendons, ligaments, and muscles in order to relieve knee pain over time.
Lubrication injections require at least three injections over 3 weeks before you feel the effects and thus are not recommended for individuals looking for immediate pain relief.
Even the most pre-cautious athletes cannot entirely fend off the natural wear and tear that occurs from a life of sports, and often nowhere do we feel it more acutely than in our knees. The most important course of action remains prevention, but knee injections can be an effective treatment for keeping you exercising and healthy!
Not every joint problem needs surgery. Some of the best work we do at Manhattan Orthopedic & Sports Medicine Group falls into the wider category of non-invasive treatment options, a salient point particularly for arthritis sufferers.
A little background: Arthritis refers to the wearing out or malfunctioning of a normal joint and is classified as being either localized or systemic. Orthopedists specialize in the former, which refers to arthritis resulting from injuries or degenerative diseases that affect a single joint. Non-surgical treatments for localized arthritis involve a highly focused array of solutions on a case-by-base basis, including:
- physical therapy
- anti-inflammatory medication
- steroid and lubrication injections
- platelet rich plasma injections.
Conversely, systemic arthritis is a systemic condition that affects multiple joints at the same time and is thus treated by rheumatologists. Systemic conditions are usually the result of autoimmune disorders, such as
- rheumatoid arthritis
- psoriatic arthritis
- lupus arthritis
- Lyme disease
are primarily treated with medication rather than surgery.
Identifying the most effective non-invasive treatment for arthritis requires a simple understanding of joints. Joints use ligaments for stabilization, synovium for lubrication, and articular cartilage to cover and protect the bones themselves.
The joint’s interconnected architecture leads to some frustrating realities. As one element wears out, the rest of the tissues weaken as the surrounding muscles atrophy and degeneration progresses.
There are, however, a number of treatments that can relieve the pain and possibly slow the process, a few of which were mentioned above. To start, physical therapy can be used to prevent stiffness and strengthen both the muscles and ligaments in the affected joint. Anti-inflammatory medications such as Ibuprofen (Advil) and Naproxen (Aleve) can help reduce joint swelling (synovitis). This lessens the amount of destructive enzymes in the joint.
Similarly, steroid injections can temporarily decrease pain and swelling and allow you to retain everyday movement as you follow an ongoing regimen as prescribed by your physician. There are also certain injections for the knee, known as visco-supplementation that can provide better lubrication and increase range of motion.
The use of platelet rich plasma in a joint remains unproven, but may be considered if surgery is too great a risk.
Most arthritis treatments should begin far before discussions about surgery. However, individuals and injuries vary, so it’s important to understand how your age and condition may dictate different treatment options.
To find out what non-surgical options are available for you, make an appointment with one of our experts here to tackle your arthritis for good!