As baby boomers move toward retirement, many are developing osteoarthritis, a wear and tear form of joint deterioration. One of the most common sites of osteoarthritis pain and mobility reduction is in the knee. As osteoarthritis progresses, the protective cartilage that covers the ends of the leg bones in the knee starts to erode, and the synovial fluid that fills, cushions, and lubricates the joint starts to change in composition.
As synovial fluid degrades, it loses volume and thickness, which leads to further deterioration of the joint and eventually leads to bone-on-bone contact. This can result in painful and restricted mobility. A treatment that has proven effective for some arthritis patients is viscosupplementation, which involves adding synthetic synovial fluid to the knee joint.
Bryan King, MD, of Tuscaloosa Orthopedic & Joint Institute, is a knee pain specialist who can give you a thorough evaluation and let you know if viscosupplementation can help ease your knee pain.
Your knee joints are engineered to bear heavy loads while simultaneously permitting a wide range of movement. Each joint is surrounded by a capsule that encloses the bone ends, cartilage, ligaments, and other components of the knee. Inside this capsule is a membrane called the synovium, which contains a thick fluid that lubricates and nourishes the components of the joint.
As osteoarthritis progresses, the synovial fluid becomes thinner and less effective at some tasks, such as absorbing shock and lubricating the joint. There’s also less of it, so separation of the leg bones is reduced, thus placing greater pressure on joint cartilage.
Synovial fluid contains a high concentration of hyaluronic acid, the substance responsible for making the fluid thick. If the fluid starts to degrade, synthetic hyaluronic acid can be injected in a procedure known as viscosupplementation.
In knees showing loss or deterioration of synovial fluid, synthetic hyaluronic acid is injected to add volume and thickness to the existing fluid. Depending on the hyaluronic acid used, you could receive 1-5 injections over a period of several weeks.
In clinical studies, results from viscosupplement treatments are typically found to be similar or better than other treatment methods for reducing pain. Research done on the effects of hyaluronic acid injections shows that treatments can support the body’s repair mechanisms and lead to less deterioration in the knee and even improvement.
While not effective for every patient, knee injections can help reduce pain, dependence on pain medications, and improve joint mobility.
Injections may be an important part of your plan to manage osteoarthritis in your knees, particularly if you belong to a patient group that tends to respond well to hyaluronic acid treatments.
To see if viscosupplementation can help you, book an appointment over the phone with Tuscaloosa Orthopedic & Joint Institute today.