Hyaluronic acid injections
The joints of the body allow us to move functionally and comfortably. Wear and tear on the joints can lead to ongoing pain and the breakdown of important structures, including cartilage. Studies have indicated that certain biological agents, including hyaluronic acid, may help relieve the inflammation that causes pain.
What Are Hyaluronic Acid Injections?
The joints are naturally lubricated by what is called synovial fluid. This fluid contains hyaluronic acid, a gel-like substance made by the body. Hyaluronic acid injections are a form of therapy intended to offset the deterioration and decline of this fluid in patients with osteoarthritis, the condition in which the joint wears away. By increasing the thickness and viscosity of hyaluronic acid in the joint, the structure should move more freely and without pain.
Can Hyaluronic Acid Injections Relieve Joint Pain Effectively?
It is believed that hyaluronic acid has several functions in the body. Each of these may relate to the pain-relief patients may achieve with targeted injections. These functions include:
- Hyaluronic acid is a chemical that binds to water molecules to achieve a gel-like consistency. Naturally present in the joints, this viscous fluid supports the natural shock-absorbing abilities of the cartilage in joints.
- Anti-inflammatory. Hyaluronic acid is an integral part of reducing pain-causing inflammation in joints.
- Hyaluronic acid facilitates the body’s natural regenerative capacity in growing new cells to repair tissues, including cartilage and bone.
- Studies have shown that hyaluronic acid is vital to the moisture of tissues. A person who weighs 154 pounds has an average of 15 ounces of hyaluronic acid to maintain hydration in the joints and eyes.
Am I A Candidate for Hyaluronic Acid Injections?
People whose pain is not adequately relieved by oral pain-relievers or anti-inflammatory medication may be good candidates for hyaluronic acid injections. This form of therapy may also be considered for patients who cannot receive steroid injections for any reason. Studies have shown that hyaluronic acid injections may provide more pain relief for people with osteoarthritis of the knee than remedies such as heat, ice, and over-the-counter pain medication. Studies have also indicated that, in some cases, hyaluronic acid injections have achieved comparable results to corticosteroid injections into the knee.
There are several conditions for which hyaluronic acid is used. These include:
- This is one of the most common conditions to cause persistent joint pain and it is one that often requires ongoing care to maintain symptoms. Injections may be administered into the hip, ankle, shoulder, knee, and thumb joints affected by the natural deterioration of cartilage.
- Rheumatoid arthritis. In one study, inflammation in the foot and ankle joints caused by rheumatoid arthritis improved with injections of hyaluronic acid.
- Tennis elbow. Hyaluronic acid has anti-inflammatory and lubricating properties that can offset the degeneration of the lateral epicondyle tendon in the elbow.
- Frozen shoulder. Research has suggested that the stiffness associated with frozen shoulder may stem from a marked decrease in hyaluronic acid in the joint. Injections of hyaluronic acid may restore adequate viscosity and also decrease inflammation in the synovial membrane.
How Long do Hyaluronic Acid Injections Last?
How long pain relief lasts after receiving hyaluronic acid injections can vary from one person to another, as can the degree of pain relief that is achieved with each patient. Some patients have reported results lasting as long as 12 months, with others reporting pain-relief for 4 to 6 months.
It is important to note that it can take several days or weeks for the effects of hyaluronic acid injections to develop. Many doctors advise patients to rest for a period of about 24 hours after receiving treatment. This helps to keep post-injection pain to a minimum and also decreases the likelihood of injected hyaluronic acid being flushed out of the capsule that surrounds the joint. For the first 24 hours after injections, patients may engage in low-impact activities such as short, slow walking. Higher impact activities such as carrying heavy objects and running should be avoided for a day or two.
Are Hyaluronic Acid Injections Safe?
Relatively few studies have reviewed the long-term effects of hyaluronic acid. However, this substance has been safely used in the form of cosmetic soft-tissue fillers (dermal fillers) for many years. Because hyaluronic acid is made by the body, the insertion of the chemical is very unlikely to cause an adverse reaction. When used appropriately, hyaluronic acid is considered safe.
What Are the Side Effects to Hyaluronic Acid Injections?
The common side effects associated with hyaluronic acid injections include minor pain or aching at the injection site. Although rare, it is possible that the treated joint may flare up with inflammation after injection therapy. This should only be temporary.
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