Jennifer Georgia, PA-C explains the different types of knee injections:
Knee arthritis can be debilitating, and, for many patients, injections can quickly reduce pain and swelling to improve mobility and function.
Types of Injections for the Knee
There are two main injections: cortisone and viscosupplementation
Cortisone injections are recommended for patients when they need quick relief from pain and swelling. The injections usually improve symptoms within 1-3 days. Results from cortisone injections tend to decline around 3-4months. These injections can be given as frequently as every 3-4 months; however, we typically recommend waiting until pain/swelling symptoms have become more severe.
There are recent studies that show that frequent cortisone injections can be harmful, leading to greater amount of arthritis. It is also not always recommended for patients who have uncontrolled diabetes as it will increase blood glucose level.
Gel (Viscosupplementation) Injections
You may have also heard of “Gel” injections. These are viscosupplementation injections that are a derivative of hyaluronic acid, which is a naturally occurring chemical in the normal synovial (joint) fluid.
In an arthritic knee, the amount of hyaluronic acid diminishes. Viscosupplementation is re-introduction into the knee to help cushion and lubricate the joint. It is safe for most patients including diabetics.
Most Gel injections come in a series of 2-3 injections that are spaced a week apart and can be given every 6 months. The effects include less joint pain and swelling over 6 months to sometimes years!
Which Injection Is Right For Me?
Cortisone injections tend to work better for patients with severe pain and swelling as they provide more immediate relief.
Gel injections can take several weeks to provide their full effect. They can be useful in reducing chronic pain/swelling from arthritis. Often, patients will seek treatment yearly to keep symptoms of arthritis at bay, allowing a delay in knee replacement and helping you stay active by improving mobility and function.
The good news is that patients can almost always expect some sort of relief from at least one of these types of injections. The real question will be which one works best for you and how long the effects will last.
What if Knee Injections Don’t Work?
Knee replacement would be the last step in the treatment process for a patient with knee arthritis. After the patient has tried and failed injections, bracing, NSAIDs, and most importantly a formal physical therapy program to maximize strength, motion, and weight loss, if necessary. When these treatments don’t work, or stop working, then the patient’s options are to live with their current symptoms, or to proceed with a customized knee replacement.
Knee replacement is the only treatment option that will truly eliminate your knee arthritis. Our surgeons customize your knee replacement and patients usually are able to go home the same day of surgery.