Osteoarthritis (OA) of the joints is one of the leading causes of disability in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 22.7% of the U.S. population adults 18 and over, or approximately 52.5 million Americans reported doctor-diagnosed cases.
Patients often suffer from pain when standing, waking up from sleep due to joint pain, or stiffness after prolonged sitting. If you have used traditional pain relief remedies, or some of the less traditional remedies like, horse liniment, pain relief creams, herbal remedies, teas and juices and the popular medical marijuana option and none of them have worked, then patients looking for relief from arthritis pain, and who want to avoid surgery, viscosupplementation has emerged as a successful treatment for mild to moderate cases of osteoarthritis of the knee, hip, and shoulders.
Mainstream Treatments for Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease or degenerative arthritis, is the most common chronic condition of the joints. OA can affect any joint, but it most often affects the knees, hips, lower back and neck, small joints of the fingers and the bases of the thumb and big toe.
In normal joints, a firm, rubbery material called cartilage covers the end of each bone. Cartilage provides a smooth, gliding surface for joint motion and acts as a cushion between the bones.
Once OA sets in, the cartilage breaks down, causing pain, swelling and problems moving the joint. As OA worsens over time, bones may break down and develop growths called spurs.
Bone or cartilage may chip off and float around in the joint. In the body, an inflammatory process occurs and cytokines (proteins) and enzymes develop that further damage the cartilage. In the final stages of OA, the cartilage wears away and bone rubs against bone leading to joint damage and more pain.
OA develops slowly and the pain it causes worsens over time. Although there is no cure for osteoarthritis, there are many treatment options available to help people manage pain and stay active.
In its early stages, treatment consists of primarily nonsurgical methods. Your doctor may recommend a range of treatments, including:
- Changes in activity level
- Weight loss
- Pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen
- Physical therapy
- Corticosteroid injections
How Viscosupplementation Works
Viscosupplementation is a promising alternative treatment option to assist with pain management. If you have tried all other non-surgical treatment methods and your pain continues to limit your activities, viscosupplementation may be a promising option.
Viscosupplementation is a lubricating cushion injected between the rubbing bones thus minimizing the pain and discomfort of osteoarthritis.
In this procedure, a gel-like fluid called hyaluronic acid is injected into the joint. Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring substance found in the synovial fluid surrounding joints. It acts as a lubricant to enable bones to move smoothly over each other and as a shock absorber for joint loads.
Typically, patients with osteoarthritis have a lower-than-normal concentration of hyaluronic acid in their joints. The theory is that adding hyaluronic acid to the affected joint will facilitate movement and reduce pain.
Depending on the product used, you will receive one to five shots over several weeks.
During the procedure, if there is any swelling in your knee, your doctor will remove (aspirate) the excess fluids before injecting the hyaluronic acid.
For the first 48 hours after the shot, you should avoid excessive weight bearing on the leg, such as standing for long periods, jogging or heavy lifting.
Many patients report significant pain relief with the procedure.
Viscosupplementation was first used in Europe and Asia, and was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1997.
How Long Does It Last?
As noted above there is currently no cure for osteoarthritis. Depending on the severity of the deterioration of the joint some patients may not be helped by viscosupplementation, while others may receive significant relief.
It may take a few weeks post treatment to notice an improvement. How long the effects last will vary from patient to patient. Some patients report pain relieving effects for several months following the injections.
It is important to note that while patients may realize decreased pain, improved mobility, and a higher quality of life, viscosupplementation is not permanent and may need to be repeated. If the injections are effective they may be repeated after a period of time, usually 6 months.
Although some patients report relief of arthritis symptoms with viscosupplementation, the procedure has not been shown to reverse the arthritic process or re-grow cartilage.
Typically, viscosupplementation is most effective if the arthritis is in its early stages (mild to moderate). If you have tried the mainstream remedies with little success, viscosupplementation may offer the pain relief that you are searching for.
Consult with one of our doctors to review your case and see if you are a candidate.
As with any form of medical treatment, you should consult with your physician before embarking on any treatment plan. The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and should not be deemed accurate for the purposes of diagnosing your particular medical condition