Joint injections are injections of different medications used to temporarily treat joint pain.
The types of joint injections available to patients include:
Corticosteroid injections: Corticosteroid injections use a combination of steroid medication and an anesthetic to reduce inflammation in order to alleviate pain.
Hyaluronic acid injections: Hyaluronic acid injections are typically used in the knee. These injections are applied when corticosteroid injections are not successful in relieving pain. Hyaluronic acid is similar to the naturally occurring substance in the body that lubricates the joints. By injecting additional hyaluronic acid into the knee, doctors aim to create more lubrication in the joint, helping it to function properly.
Platelet-rich plasma injections: Platelet-rich-plasma injections, also called PRP injections, use the patient’s own blood to stimulate and encourage the body’s natural healing process of the cartilage and tissues within the joints.
Placental tissue matrix (PTM) injections: Placental tissue matrix injections, also called PTM injections, use placental tissue collected after a healthy birth. Mothers can choose to donate their placenta after giving birth to a child. Placental tissue helps decrease inflammation and promote healing because it contains amniotic stem cells.
Why joint injections are performed
Joint injections are used to treat pain in the hip, knee, and shoulder related to:
Stress from poor mechanics
Joint injections can also be used to determine the cause of the individual’s pain. For example, if an anesthetic solution is injected into the hip joint and the patient experiences pain relief in the leg, this may indicate that the hip is the source of pain.
What to expect during a joint injection procedure
A joint injection procedure can take between 30 minutes to one hour to complete, including recovery and observation time. Joint injections are typically guided using X-ray imaging. Before the procedure, the patient is given medication via an IV to help him/her relax. The patient then lies down on an X-ray table and the pain specialist places a topical anesthetic on the skin over the area where the injection will be given. An injection of contrast dye is given to help guide the doctor while administering the injection with precision.
Risks associated with joint injection
Complications associated with joint injections are uncommon, but may include:
Bleeding at the site of injection
Swelling at the site of injection
Benefits of joint injections
Pain injections for the joints offer a minimally invasive option for pain relief without the need for surgery. Some injections, like placental injections and platelet-rich plasma injections, provide additional benefits because they are free of steroids and contain naturally occurring substances (such as blood platelets and stem cells) to help reduce inflammation.
How to prepare for joint injections
There are no specific instructions to follow before a joint injection procedure. However, it is important to share all medication allergies with the care team.
Post joint injection treatment
Patients can go home the same day of a joint injection treatment, and can return to normal activities one day after the procedure. It may take some people up to one week to experience pain relief.
Some doctors may suggest that patients see a physical therapist while pain-free to start a program of stretches and exercises that can further help with pain relief and regaining mobility. Pain relief can last for several months, but will vary from person to person.