Hyaluronic acid injection therapy also known as viscosupplementation or joint fluid replacement therapy is a treatment option for patients who suffer from osteoarthritis. These patients have previously tried pain relievers such as aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen and other non-steroidal and steroidal anti-inflammatory agents without significant pain relief. Furthermore, many patients have intolerances, experience negative side effects, or have an allergy to these drugs and require another option.
Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis. It occurs when the protective cartilage on the ends of your bones wears down over time. It can occur with any joint in your body however, the disorder most commonly affects joints in your hands, knees, hips and spine. Although osteoarthritis symptoms can be effectively managed, unfortunately the underlying process cannot be reversed. Staying active, maintaining a healthy weight can reduce pain, and improve joint function. The symptoms include pain in the joints during or after activity, tenderness when applying light pressure to the joint, stiffness, loss of flexibility, and a grating sensation in the joint.
Patients can opt to receive viscosupplementaion to treat pain caused by osteoarthritis. Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring protein which is produced by the joints. However, patients suffering from OA have diminished production of hyaluronic acid or it is broken down from very little to none, causing friction and stiffness between the joints. It works by acting like a lubricant and shock absorber in the joints and helps the joints to work properly. This type of treatment option is administered only under the supervision of a specialist with expertise in managing musculoskeletal care.
The effects of hyaluronic acid injections vary amongst different patients. Patients at more advanced stages of OA may not gain as much relief as those in the early stages. Viscosupplementation is often recommended for patients prior to making a decision to move forward with replacing the entire joint with a large surgical procedure. Many people find immediate relief after treatment but most experience relief 6 to 10 weeks after injection. HA has been able to effectively delay the need for total knee replacement and has shown a protective effect on cartilage.
If your specialist has determined that viscosupplementation is right for you then you can expect a simple non-surgical procedure. Your specialist will inject the hyaluronic acid directly into the joint space. In difficult cases ultrasound may be used to help guide the injection. Injections can be safely repeated every 6 months. There is minimal swelling and discomfort at the site of the injection and little to no side effect.