Osteoarthritis is the most common chronic condition of the joints.
As one of the leading causes of disability in the United States, osteoarthritis develops slowly and the pain it causes worsens over time. Although there is no cure for osteoarthritis, there are many treatment options available to help people manage pain and stay active. In its early stages, nonsurgical methods such as changes in activity levels, physical therapy, and corticosteroid injections can be useful in reducing your pain. If you've tried these methods and your pain continues to limit your activities, viscosupplementation may be the option you've been looking for.
What Is viscosupplementation?
When a healthy joint moves, its bones glide against one another with little or no friction, thanks to a layer of slick cartilage and slippery synovial fluid. A vital component of this fluid is hyaluronic acid, which acts as both a lubricant and as a shock absorber. In healthy joints, hyaluronic acid is continuously broken down and replaced – but in osteoarthritic joints, this breakdown happens faster than production. This results in a compromised synovial fluid that provides less protection against joint friction and impact.
As its name implies, viscosupplementation artificially supplements the joint fluid’s natural viscosity. By injecting man-made hyaluronic acid into the knee, doctors hope to temporarily lubricate the knee joint, thereby decreasing pain and improving function. This procedure is completed in-office in less than 5 minutes, with treatments occurring once a week for three to five weeks.
Viscosupplementation has been shown to be most effective in treating the early stages of osteoarthritis (mild to moderate). After receiving this treatment, our patients have reported pain relief from their knee osteoarthritis for 3 months to even a year. Of those who are treated, many report feeling some pain relief during the 3- to 5-week course of the injections, while pain relief is delayed in others. Most patients report the greatest pain relief takes place 8 to 12 weeks after beginning treatment.