Viscosupplementation for Degenerated Joints
One of the most common reasons over 30 million Americans experience knee pain is due to arthritis. In the early stages of arthritis, doctors will recommend various non-surgical treatment options, such as weight loss and changes in activity as initial attempts to relieve discomfort in the knee.
It is typical for individuals who fail to have any relief from their knee discomfort after these initial changes in lifestyle to be candidates for another non-surgical treatment: viscosupplementation.
Viscosupplementation is a non-surgical medical treatment during which a gel-like fluid called hyaluronic acid is injected into the knee. Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring substance found in the human body and is a key component of the joint fluid in healthy joints. It acts as a lubricant that allows bones to move smoothly over each other.
Most treatment regimens for viscosupplementation include three injections over the course of three weeks. During the procedures, the doctor may remove the excess fluids in the knee, if swollen, before injecting the hyaluronic acid. It is recommended to avoid excessive weight bearing on the joint, such as standing for extended periods of time, running, or lifting heavy weights during the first 48 hours after the injection.
Your doctor may recommend you participate in a rehabilitation program that includes gentle, progressive knee exercises with the goal of increasing range of motion and develop muscle strength to support the knee.
This treatment is ideal for individuals who have mild to moderate osteoarthritis of the knee. Viscosupplementation may be especially useful for people who have not found relief with other arthritis treatments, such as pain relievers and corticosteroid injections.
The benefits of viscosupplementation injections will not be immediate. Because injections are administered over time, slight relief may be felt after the first treatment, but the greatest benefit may not be felt for weeks or months after the treatment begins.
Individuals who suffer from severe arthritis, especially those who have bone-to-bone contact in their joints, will likely not benefit from viscosupplements and will instead need a more aggressive treatment, such as surgery or joint replacement.