Viscosupplementation Offers Non-Surgical Relief to Patients With Arthritic Knees

You have chronic pain from arthritis that makes your knee painful, inflamed, and even swollen. But you’re not quite ready to go in for surgery and don’t want to rely entirely on pain medications for relief. Viscosupplementation, or hyaluronic acid injections, may be an option for relief.

This non-surgical intervention restores lubricating fluid to the joint so you can temporarily move it without pain and discomfort. At Rio Grande Pain Team, we want you to understand the procedure, its possible benefits for you, and how it can help you find relief without going under the scalpel.

What is viscosupplementation?

Viscosupplementation involves the injection of lubricating fluid into a joint — in this case, the knee. That lubricating fluid is hyaluronic acid, a natural compound that your body produces and that exists in the synovial fluid that helps with joint movement. People with osteoarthritis of the knee tend to have lower levels of this natural lubricant at the joint, causing compromised motion, pain, and stiffness.

The viscosupplement replaces the natural hyaluronic acid to make movement more comfortable. In some cases, viscosupplementation may slow the further progression of osteoarthritis.

Who is a good candidate for viscosupplementation?

Dennis Slavin, MD, and his Rio Grande Pain Team put together a treatment plan appropriate for you. After we’ve assessed your pain level and knee dysfunction, we may recommend anti-inflammatory drugs and physical therapy. If these fail to work, viscosupplements may be the next step — before sending you to surgery.

Viscosupplements tend to be most effective for people with mild to moderate osteoarthritis. Your cartilage hasn’t degenerated to the point where you have bone rubbing against bone.

Viscosupplements are also particularly helpful if your arthritis flares up in response to activity or an injury but isn’t a chronic condition you’ve experienced for years. When the pain management team believes a total knee replacement is the only way for you to experience relief, it may be too late for viscosupplements to work.

How long does viscosupplementation offer relief?

Several brands of viscosupplements are available, and we carefully consider your goals when prescribing each injection. For most people receiving viscosupplementation at the offices of Rio Grande Pain Team, the injections offer relief for nine to 12 months.

Patients who get the best results from the injections also undergo physical therapy that includes gentle, progressive knee exercises. These exercises help build strength in the muscles around the joint to further improve function and reduce pain.

What about side effects from viscosupplementation injections?

The risks associated with viscosupplementation treatment are very minimal. During the injection, you might experience some discomfort. You may have some swelling or redness at the point of injection too. The risk of infection is very low — fewer than one in 1,000 patients experiences this complication.

 

If you have mild to moderate knee pain due to osteoporosis, consider viscosupplementation as a possible way to reduce pain and improve your mobility. Dr. Slavin and his professional staff at Rio Grande Pain Team can help you determine if you’re a good candidate for this minimally invasive intervention. Call for an appointment at one of our two locations or book online through this website.

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