Say Hi to Hyaluronic Acid: The Benefits of Viscosupplementation for Knee Pain
Why Do I Have Knee Pain?
Our joints are constantly under a lot of stress throughout our days. Whether it be walking around the house, mowing the lawn, or going for a run, our joints work to allow for these actions. Our knees, in particular, carry much of the weight-bearing responsibilities in our bodies. It is no wonder that as we age and place repeated stress on these joints, they begin to wear down and deteriorate. For one in four adults, this results in chronic knee pain.
Today, the most common cause of knee pain in the United States is osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis (OA) is a chronic degenerative disorder characterized by the deterioration of the articular cartilage that cushions the two bones of a joint. Following prolonged periods of inactivity and strenuous activity, OA often promotes feelings of stiffness, discomfort, and varied sensations of pain. The primary goals when treating osteoarthritis are to alleviate pain caused by activation of the joint and to improve its functionality, thereby increasing the patient’s quality of life.
Deterioration of articular cartilage results in increased friction of the joint and worsening of irritation in the knee. This triggers an inflammatory process that worsens any localized pain experienced, as the friction between bones is accompanied by a buildup of tissue and fluid applying pressure to nearby nerve endings. Fortunately, there are various ways one may treat their symptoms of knee pain, as well as the source of the knee pain itself. Though some treatments are more aggressive, such as surgery, there are less-invasive, interventional treatments that exist, such as physical therapy and viscosupplementation.
What is Viscosupplementation?
Viscosupplementation can be an extremely attractive option for many patients experiencing joint pain. Viscosupplementation is a type of gel injection––specifically, hyaluronic acid––that targets joints whose articular cartilage providing the necessary cushioning between two bones has begun to break down. A course of treatment may involve up to four hyaluronic acid injections, each with a unique gel composition to create a cumulative effect.
The hyaluronic acid that naturally exists in our synovial joints is essential for minimizing the friction that builds up from constant movement. These hyaluronic acid injections promote maximum joint functionality by restoring normal physiologic elasticity to the synovial fluid. Additionally, hyaluronic acid can decrease the inflammatory response and further reduce joint pain.
Therapeutic Options for Knee Pain and Benefits of Viscosupplementation
A patient-physician team may decide to treat the afflicting knee pain with treatments for knee pain of varied invasiveness. Conservative and less-invasive options such as viscosupplementation help to restore internal and structural balance to a joint. It is particularly helpful for patients to have physical therapy integrated into their pain relief journey to maximize the likelihood of positive outcomes and to ensure all non-surgical interventions are being pursued. If such management does not provide a patient with enough relief for a reasonable return to their routines, surgical intervention may need to be considered. Common surgical options may include cartilage repair, osteotomy (cutting down bone to reshape the joint and realign associated bones), and knee arthroplasty (having the articular surface improved).
Patients and physicians, alike, often prefer less-invasive options for treating pain to avoid the risks of surgery; however, in some cases, surgery can offer the most promising results. Fortunately, one study on women with chronic knee pain reported nearly 71% of those treated with viscosupplementation saw significant relief after 8 weeks. This is promising news for many hoping to avoid surgery and instead use viscosupplementation to treat the grueling symptoms of knee joint deterioration and inflammation. New research continues to provide support for use of viscosupplementation in joints other than the knee, so that one day soon joints such as the shoulder could be treated similarly under insurance.
Book your initial consultation with Dr. Raj Maniam or Dr. Matthew Kohler today to get started on your pain management journey and see if viscosupplementation for knee pain could be the right fit for you!
Written By: Cherubina Rubannelsonkumar
Edited By: Camden Rowe