Hyaluronic acid (HA) is a slippery substance found all over your body, especially in your eyes, joints, and skin. Its molecules bind with water molecules, keeping your body parts hydrated. It also provides lubrication, similar to the grease you might apply to a wheel to keep it spinning.
The hyaluronic acid in your joints keeps them moving smoothly and protects their cartilage. That is one reason why hyaluronic acid injections, or viscosupplementation, are an excellent choice of treatment for certain types of joint pain.
Double board-certified pain management specialist Dr. Glenn M. Flanagan of Naples Regenerative Institute in Naples, Florida, uses viscosupplementation to treat knee pain and stiffness, often due to arthritis. Studies suggest that HA injections for knee pain decrease the progression of knee arthritis and do not carry the same risk of destroying the cartilage as steroid injections. For that reason, Dr. Flanagan uses low-dose steroid injections for joint pain sparingly and often opts for viscosupplementation with HA instead.
If you’re one of the 800 thousand patients who seek treatment for knee osteoarthritis in the United States each year, viscosupplementation is an excellent option. Here are the steps you can expect during the procedure at Naples Regenerative Institute:
Local anesthesia makes your knee numb, so the HA injection is painless. Because certain types of injectable local anesthesia can accelerate cartilage damage inside the joint, Dr. Flanagan is selective when choosing anesthesia. Products like lidocaine and bupivacaine are commonly used with joint injections, but Dr. Flanagan uses ropivacaine because it’s the least toxic option.
If fluid buildup is present in your knee joint, Dr. Flanagan may drain the joint to release pressure, alleviate swelling, and make way for the HA injection.
To ensure the lubricating HA is delivered to the joint space, Dr. Flanagan relies on live ultrasound and x-ray imaging technology during all injections. That allows him to see the needle entering the knee during treatment. The fluid lubricates the knee while alleviating pain and reducing swelling. While the HA doesn’t alleviate symptoms immediately, the initial anesthetic injection keeps you comfortable.
Most people require one injection of HA per procedure. However, you might need multiple viscosupplementation treatments over time to maintain noticeable pain relief.
If you have osteoarthritis in your knee, you don’t have as much natural hyaluronic acid within the joint. Viscosupplementation supplements your natural hyaluronic acid to restore the function of the joint.
As soon as the procedure is finished, you’re free to go home. Dr. Flanagan places a bandage over the injection site. He lets you know when you can remove it.
For at least 48 hours after viscosupplementation, you should avoid:
Mild swelling and discomfort are normal after viscosupplementation as the anesthetic wears off. If you experience these symptoms, apply an ice pack to your knee until they resolve.
If you continue with joint injection therapy, Dr. Flanagan plans your treatment accordingly and typically suggests returning for additional injections around six months after your initial treatment.
Give our office a call or book an appointment online at Naples Regenerative Institute to gain more information on hyaluronic acid injections for knee pain today.