What are Joint Injections?
For patients presenting with joint pain due to arthritis, the first step is usually conservative treatment, which includes but is not limited to medication and physical therapy (or a home exercise program).
If conservative treatment is not successful, you will likely proceed to interventional methods, or joint injections. The most common joint injections both seek to alleviate pain and increase range of motion. They are:
- Steroid Injections - Steroid injections are used to treat inflammation, arthritis, and joint disease.
- Hyaluronic acid (or "rooster comb") injections - Also referred to as viscosupplementation, hyaluronic acid injections are used to treat osteoarthritis (most commonly in the knee).
Steroid injections (or corticosteroid injections) work to reduce swelling and inflammation in the joint. They are commonly used in the knee, hip, and shoulder to relieve pain and swelling, but can also be used to treat pain in other joints including the elbow, wrist, and ankle.
There are benefits and drawbacks to steroid injections, including:
- Fast Relief – Steroid injections typically offer relief within 24-48 hours of the injection.
- Short-Term Relief – Pain relief from a steroid injection can last from 6-12 weeks.
- Limitations on Repeat Use – Steroid injections are often most effective the first time, with subsequent injections losing their efficacy. These injections also cannot be given too frequently without a risk of weakening the surrounding structures of the joint.
Speak to your physician to find out if steroid injections may be a good option for you.
Hyaluronic Acid Injections / Viscosupplementation
Hyaluronic acid is a natural lubricating component in the lining of your joints. However, as we age, our bodies produce this substance at a lower quantity and quality. In patients suffering from osteoarthritis, the hyaluronic acid thins even further, causing friction and pain as the joint operates.
Hyaluronic acid injections, also referred to as viscosupplementation, inject this substance back into the painful joint, coating and lubricating it to reduce friction and pain and increase range of motion.
Currently, the FDA has only approved viscosupplementation for use on the knee, but there is evidence to support its use in the hip and shoulder as well. These injections can be given safely if steroid injections have proven ineffective.
Fun Fact: Viscosupplementation is also referred to as “rooster comb injections” because many pharmaceutical companies extract hyaluronic acid from the cartilage of rooster combs. Synthetic hyaluronic acid can also be used for these injections.
Speak to your physician to find out if hyaluronic acid injections may be a good option for you.
Will Joint Injections Be Covered By My Insurance?
In most cases, insurance plans will cover the approved use of steroid injections and viscosupplementation. However, every insurance company has its own standards and guidelines, so it is best to verify your individual coverage prior to scheduling your joint injection.