Chronic knee pain is often caused by osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis. About 30 million Americans have osteoarthritis (OA), and the knee is a commonly affected joint. Over time the cartilage and bones in your knee begin to break down, causing pain, swelling, and stiffness.
Depending on how advanced your OA is, as well as your personal situation, there are various treatments available. Some common nonsurgical interventions include:
- Over-the-counter pain relievers
- Weight loss
- Increased physical activity
- Physical therapy
- Knee braces, cane, or crutches
- Corticosteroid injections
For some people, the next treatment option is surgery, but at WolMed, a cutting-edge treatment called viscosupplementation therapy could help you avoid surgery and find pain relief.
In the early stages of OA, being more physically active can help reduce the pain, and often, weight loss is recommended. Eliminating any excess weight reduces the burden on your knees. Physical therapy may help, too.
Unfortunately, when you’re in pain, it may be especially difficult to motivate yourself to be physically active. Low-impact activities, such as swimming, may be helpful. Remaining active is important because it can slow the process of degeneration and because it can help keep you from becoming depressed.
Corticosteroid injections are a nonsurgical treatment that may be used to help reduce inflammation and relieve pain, but they can cause side effects if they’re used too often. The injections can be especially problematic for people who have diabetes because of their effects on blood sugar.
In 1997, the US Food and Drug Administration approved a nonsurgical therapy called viscosupplementation for the treatment of knee OA. Viscosupplementation also involves injections, but instead of corticosteroids, your WolMed provider injects a substance called hyaluronic acid (HA) into your knee. You may need a single injection or a series of injections over several weeks.
HA is one of the natural components of synovial fluid, which is the substance that lubricates your joints so that your bones can move smoothly against each other. When you have OA, you may have less synovial fluid that you need, so the injections may help relieve the pain and stiffness you feel as you move your knee.
The HA is injected directly into your joint capsule, where the synovial fluid naturally occurs. In order to make sure the injection is placed in just the right spot, the physicians at WolMed use an imaging device during the procedure.
Some patients may feel a temporary discomfort immediately following the viscosupplementation therapy injection. Using an ice pack and following your doctor’s after-care instructions should help those symptoms fade quickly, and within a few weeks, you’re likely to feel improvement. The viscosupplementation treatment should be effective for several months and provides relief without the complications of surgery.
If you’re experiencing knee pain due to OA, book an appointment online or by phone at WolMed for a consultation. You can ask questions and begin learning about the many treatment options available to our patients at either the Denton or Dallas office.