Whether you’re an athlete prepping for your next event, or an individual trying to get through your everyday routine, knee pain can be a frustrating problem. Nearly 25.7 million people feel limited in their daily life due to joint stiffness and pain.
While over-the-counter medicines and lifestyle changes can relieve mild symptoms, they are usually ineffective in the long run.
Fortunately, there are other ways medical professionals can help bring back function in your knees, allowing you to resume your activities at full steam. Knee injections are one such remedy. They not only relieve pain but are also very effective at reducing inflammation.
Interested to learn more about how knee pain injections work?
Wondering why you should consider them at all?
We will walk you through all the details in this post. Let’s dive in!
Types of Knee Pain Injections
The specific medication injected will vary based on your physician’s discretion and your disease. Generally speaking, doctors opt for two main types of knee pain injections.
To date, corticosteroids are the gold standard of knee pain injections. Corticosteroids mimic the effects of cortisol, a natural hormone produced by the body’s adrenal glands.
When administered in the correct dose, corticosteroids can help reduce inflammation – the root cause of knee pain. What’s more, they are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream and can deliver quick results. Depending on the condition of the knee, the benefits may last from a few days to over several months.
Typically, cortisone can help:
- Treat arthritic flare-ups: Corticosteroids can help treat bouts of severe arthritis pain.
- Postpone surgery: In moderate or severe cases of arthritis, the patient may require a knee replacement or other surgical treatment. Corticosteroid injections can help you live with less pain, should you decide to delay surgery.
- Open a window for physical therapy: Pain relief following a corticosteroid injection can give you a chance to participate in physical therapy to activate your joints. Chances are by the time the cortisone wears off, your knees will be in better shape.
Corticosteroid injections are relatively harmless. However, like all medications, excessive use of cortisone can cause more harm than good. A few common long-term side effects resulting from extensive usage include:
- Cartilage breakdown
- Thinning of the skin
- Weight gain
- High blood pressure
Hence, many physicians refuse to administer repeated cortisone injections to the same joint over a short time.
B. Hyaluronic Acid
Hyaluronic acid (HA) is a naturally occurring substance in the body, responsible for cushioning and lubricating your joints. It protects the bones and enables them to move smoothly against each other when you extend or flex your knee. However, conditions like osteoarthritis deplete HA, leading to pain and inflammation.
This is where HA knee injections come in. Also known as viscosupplementation, this process replenishes the synovial lining, decreases friction, and reduces pain/stiffness.
Note that an HA injection is not the go-to treatment for knee pain. In many cases, your doctor may suggest hyaluronic acid if:
- Your symptoms don’t improve with traditional pain relief methods.
- You can’t take traditional painkillers.
- A corticosteroid shot doesn’t help, or you cannot take one due to pre-existing medical conditions (for example, diabetes).
- You’re not ready for total knee replacement.
It’s worth mentioning that although HA injections are effective for osteoarthritis, they won’t fix all painful knee problems, such as ligament tears, tendinitis, or sprains. This is because HA shots only restore the lining of your knee joints, they cannot repair the surrounding tissue.
When Should You Start Considering Knee Pain Injections
Osteoarthritis occurs in four distinct stages. Since most of the symptoms and pain don’t manifest until the second stage, you may want to try other alternatives, such as exercise and physical therapy, before giving thought to knee pain injections.
That said, if your knee pain continues to persist despite these treatments, feel free to talk to your physician about knee pain injections. They will be able to evaluate your medical history and determine if these shots are the right step for you.
How are Knee Injections Administered?
Most knee injections are done in-office. The procedure is relatively easy and only takes a few minutes.
To begin with, you will be seated, and the doctor will position your knee appropriately. Following this, they will:
- Clean the skin around your knee with a disinfecting solution
- Treat it with a local anesthetic to numb the pain
- Insert the needle into your joint. This may cause some discomfort at first, so try to hang in there.
- Inject the medication directly into your knee.
Now for the million-dollar question: do knee injections hurt?
The answer is a resounding no, provided your doctor, nurse, or healthcare professional has experience administering knee pain injections. Besides the initial discomfort, you are not likely to feel any pain during the procedure- just a slight pinch.
What Should You Expect After a Knee Pain Injection?
You should feel the effects of the shot anywhere between immediately after your appointment to weeks later, depending on the medication received. Although there aren’t any strict restrictions on physical activity, your doctor may advise you against straining your knee as a precaution.
You can also experience something called ‘post-injection flare’, where the shot induces an initial inflammatory response that lasts a day or so. If this happens, try treating it with ice, compression, elevation, or anti-inflammatory medication like ibuprofen. However, if your symptoms include prolonged/severe pain, decreased range of motion, or redness, you may have an infection. Reach out to your physician without delay.
What are the Common Risks Associated with Knee Pain Injections?
When it comes to knee and joint pain injections, complications are rare and typically resolved. Here are a few common risks associated with these shots.
- Diabetic patients may experience transient increases in their blood glucose levels after a corticosteroid injection.
- Patients with hypertension may see a rise in blood pressure.
- Corticosteroid shots may cause a change in skin pigmentation around the injection site.
How Long Do the Effects Last?
Different knee pain medications have different durations of onset and longevity. Your physician may re-inject the medication once its initial effects wear off. How often this happens will depend on several factors, including:
- Your medical and family history
- The severity of the pain
- The stage of your condition
- The level of risk involved
As you can see, there’s no cookie-cutter solution here. It’s best to discuss the risks and benefits of each injection with your doctor before deciding on one.
The Bottom Line
Chronic knee pain can take a heavy toll on your physical and emotional well-being. But you don’t have to live in misery. Knee injections can help you manage knee pain, so you can reclaim your active lifestyle in no time, Hopefully, this post has given you some insight into knee pain injections- what they are, how they work, their effects, and their risks.
At Peak Health & Wellness, our pain management specialists in Utah are committed to helping you manage a wide range of painful conditions without going under the knife. We offer individually tailored pain management services designed to provide relief and get you back on your feet. Don’t let joint pain slow you down. Reach out to us with your queries today.