The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that over 32 million Americans suffer from osteoarthritis, the most common wear-and-tear condition affecting the joints of your body. To date, there’s no cure for this condition, which is one of over 100 types of arthritis.
The team at Southern Westchester Orthopedics & Sports Medicine recommends hyaluronic acid injections to some of their osteoarthritis patients. A natural substance found throughout your body, hyaluronic acid can supplement existing amounts to improve joint function. Here’s how you may benefit from this drug-free therapy.
What is hyaluronic acid?
Occurring naturally in your body, hyaluronic acid is a humectant, a substance that attracts and traps moisture. It’s in your joints, and your eyes and skin feature significant amounts of hyaluronic acid as well. It’s a key component of synovial fluid, which acts as a lubricant and shock absorber for many joints including your knees, a common site affected by osteoarthritis.
People with arthritis typically have damage to bone-covering cartilage as well as diminished naturally occurring hyaluronic acid. Deteriorating cartilage makes joint movement more difficult, and lower synovial fluid volume means there’s less cushioning and lubrication.
How hyaluronic acid injections can help joints
Synthetic hyaluronic acid injected into the synovial capsule bolsters your natural levels, boosting the shock-absorbing characteristics while increasing the amount of lubrication. This added hyaluronic acid also holds additional moisture in the area.
Another benefit of hyaluronic acid injections is the increased capacity for trapping the byproducts of joint degradation. Existing hyaluronic acid falls in quality as it absorbs inflammatory molecules. An expanded supply of hyaluronic acid means more inflammatory byproducts taken out of action, reducing the pain and swelling that often accompany inflammation.
Added benefits of hyaluronic acid injections
While hyaluronic acid can’t directly reverse the damage started by osteoarthritis, there’s evidence that it can slow deterioration in a joint and potential support for the healing of cartilage damage. In practical terms, these injections have a pain-relieving effect for many patients, particularly those receiving injections in a series.
Hyaluronic acid injections may reduce your dependence on pain medications as well. The effects are temporary, but you may see improvement for 6-12 months before needing another treatment. The Food and Drug Administration approves hyaluronic acid for treating arthritis in the knees, but it’s also commonly used off-label for other joints.
Can hyaluronic acid save your joints?
While hyaluronic acid injections can make osteoarthritis easier to live with, it’s a treatment of symptoms rather than a cure. Patients who find that non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs no longer handle pain or those who wish to avoid taking cortisone shots may find that hyaluronic acid is an effective treatment option.
Find out more about hyaluronic acid injections and their suitability for your condition by consulting with an injections specialist at any of Southern Westchester Orthopedics & Sports Medicine’s three New York offices. You can book by phone or online. It’s that easy, so make an appointment today.