Question:My knees started to act up with arthritis last year. I had a few of those slippery injections in both knees. Now they are doing much better. Lately my left elbow is starting to bother me. Can I have the same injections for this joint?
Answer:There are two types of injections possible for the knee joint. Steroid injections place an antiinflammatory drug right inside the joint. One to three injections are used after patients have tried and failed more conservative measures.
Usually, they have had a trial of three to six months' of oral antiinflammatories, activity modifications, and/or physical therapy. The therapist helps each patient find ways to use the affected joints more gently and with less force. Range of motion, nerve and joint mobilization, and strengthening exercises can result in less pain, more motion, and more function.
A second type of injection into the joint is called viscosupplementation. A special substance (hyaluronan; also known as hyaluronic acid or hyaluronate) is injected into the joint.
This slippery or gooey substance is a lubricant that cushions the intra-articular surface of the joint. The overall effect is to reduce pain and improve motion and function.
Both types of injections (steroid and viscosupplementation) are used for the treatment of painful joints from osteoarthritis (OA). Treatment of the hip, knee, and ankle are most common.
Not enough studies of intra-articular injections of hyaluronan for the elbow have been reported to know for sure if this is a safe and effective treatment.
Talk to your doctor about what treatment might be best for you. A proper diagnosis must be made first before assuming what you have is OA. Most often, conservative care is advised first before any kind of injection or invasive treatment.Emilie V. Cheung, MD, et al. Primary Osteoarthritis of the Elbow: Current Treatment Options. In Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. February 2008. Vol. 16. No. 2. Pp. 77-87.
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