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Can Injections Be The Alternative To Knee Surgery For Patients With Osteoarthritis?



Arthritis affects every individual at some point in their life. For some, arthritis makes an appearance much later in life while others are not so fortunate. Milder forms of arthritis can be handled with pain medications and heating pads. The trouble starts when arthritic pain becomes so severe that it debilitates and disfigures the person robbing the individual of their independence.

Arthritic Pain and Knee Surgeries

1 in every 5 Americans faces chronic arthritis pain at least once in his lifetime. Such a condition is physically and financially debilitating. According to data collected from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, arthritis was the topmost reason for the total 450,000 total knee replacement surgeries in the US every year.

The total cost for knee surgeries runs up to more than $35,000 without insurance.  Even with insurance, there are many expenses that have to be paid for by the patient. There is hope in the form of many new alternatives being developed that are minimally invasive and have long-lasting effects. Major clinics offer alternative treatments to those who do not wish to opt for knee replacement surgery. One such alternative treatment is the viscosupplement injections. It is recommended for those patients who are young in age and are unable to take oral supplements for the pain.


Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease of the joints; especially the knee joints and is also one of the common types of arthritis. In this type of arthritis, a tear in the cartilage occurs leading to further damage as time goes on. Due to this, the bone under the cartilage rubs together which leads to paining and swelling, and ultimately resulting in loss of motion. The damage to joints is gradual over the years; however, it sets in at an early age. In more severe cases, the cartilage may break off and float in the knee giving rise to inflammation and irritation in the soft tissue.  Since cartilage is unable to grow back itself, the body compensates for the growth of an extra bone on the joint. This is known as bone spurs.

What can cause Osteoarthritis?

Although the direct cause is unknown, there are several factors that lead to osteoarthritis:

  • Injury to the joint
  • Being overweight
  • Old age
  • Overuse of the joints
  • Genetic make up

Viscosupplement Injections

These injections have been approved by the FDA for use in osteoarthritis treatment. There is a natural fluid present in the knees known as hyaluronic acid that is responsible for the lubrication of the joints and also acts as a shock absorber. Due to arthritis, there is a decrease in this natural fluid in the joints. The viscosupplement injections are made up of this hyaluronic acid and it increases the joint’s supply of the fluid. The knee works on a mechanism known as a hinge joint mechanism. The fluid helps to reduce friction and thus reduces any pain.

The effects are felt immediately after the injections are received. Generally, patients are administered the injection in three doses, given once a week.  However, recently researchers have developed the treatment in just one dose and also recommend a physical therapy program to help with mobility of the knees and to cope with pain. Such treatment helps to reduce swelling, inflammation, and pain.

Although the alternative has good results as it makes use of a natural substance, doctors strongly recommend following a strict regimen of a healthy diet combined with proper exercise. If not, the problem can recur. It is important to first get yourself evaluated with a specialist before you opt for any kind of treatment plan. Some alternative treatments are not applicable in severe cases of osteoarthritis as a total knee replacement may be the only solution.