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How Effective is Viscosupplementation Therapy in Remedying Knee Pain?

Jan 05, 2022

If you suffer from knee pain, it doesn't take long for you to realize how much it affects your entire life — it can cause a problem with every step you take. 

One of the most widespread causes of knee pain is osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis. At least 19% of American adults age 45 or older suffer from this condition. 

Your bones have cartilage attached at the end to protect them where they meet other bones. Osteoarthritis — and your knee pain — occurs when this cartilage begins to wear away, leaving two bare bones to rub against each other without the cushioning effect of cartilage.

Typical treatment for this kind of pain includes pain medication and/or physical therapy. If, however, you’re still experiencing pain after these treatments, you may benefit from viscosupplementation therapy. 

The idea of viscosupplementation therapy is to restore the lubrication lost to osteoarthritis or age. This better joint lubrication reduces inflammation, pain, and stiffness.

After our knee pain specialists at Florida Pain Management Institute determine the cause and degree of your knee pain, we may recommend viscosupplementation as a solution. The therapy won’t cure your knee pain entirely, but it will increase your daily level of comfort and mobility, especially when done in conjunction with physical therapy to help strengthen the joint and improve range of motion.

What is viscosupplementation?

Viscosupplementation therapy is the injection of hyaluronic acid into your knee joint. Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring lubricant in your body that facilitates smoother joint movement, reduces friction in your joints, and slows the development of osteoarthritis.

If your hyaluronic acid level is low ( it decreases as you age), it may limit your joint motion and cause joint pain and stiffness. People with knee osteoarthritis are also more likely to have lower concentrations of hyaluronic acid.

Viscosupplementation usually is not the first treatment we recommend, but you may be a good candidate if nonsurgical treatments, such as pain medication, physical therapy, and weight loss haven’t been effective.

It may not be a good treatment for your knee pain if you have a knee joint infection, skin disease, or a bleeding disorder, and it doesn’t work as well for overweight people with a narrower joint space in their knee.

What should I expect with viscosupplementation shots?

A normal viscosupplementation treatment includes one to five hyaluronic acid shots given over several weeks. The procedure is done in our office, where we use state-of-the-art fluoroscopy, an imaging technique that conveys real-time moving images of the inside of your knee. These images are projected onto a monitor to help guide us so we can administer the injection into the precise location.

You may experience some pain and swelling after each shot. Rest and ice will help the swelling go down, and you should avoid any weight-bearing activities for 48 hours after the injection.

What kind of results will I see?

Viscosupplementation is most effective for cases of mild to moderate knee osteoarthritis. If you’re older or have severe osteoarthritis, it may be less effective. Determining your results will take some time — it may be up to four weeks after the initial injection before you begin to notice a reduction in your knee pain. 

When it works, the treatment can provide relief from knee osteoarthritis pain for two to six months. You’ll experience the most relief between weeks five and 13. Additional injections may provide relief for up to three years. The relief may even be enough to delay total knee replacement surgery for a while.

To find out more about viscosupplementation and whether it may be effective in treating your knee pain, contact the Florida Pain Management Institute today to schedule an appointment.