Joint injections are a quick, minimally invasive option for many people looking for pain relief. It’s one of the most popular treatments at Integrated Pain Consultants, and part of our suite of pain services for back, neck, joint pain, and much more. Recently, Harvard Health Publishing released an article touting the benefits of steroid injections for knee and hip osteoarthritis (OA). OA is a very common condition that is often debilitating. It’s caused by the degeneration of the joint (sometimes referred to as “wear and tear”) that leads to the cartilage’s smooth lining become thin and uneven over time.
Most people with OA are older, but weight, lack of physical activity, and genetics can also lead to OA in younger patients. OA is the main reason why surgeons replace millions of joints every year, and those joints are usually the hips or knees. Joint injections are obviously a much more conservative treatment than surgery, and surgery should be considered a last resort only after conservative treatments have failed.
Steroid injections work by minimizing joint inflammation and the degree of relief can vary, as well as how long the relief lasts. Some patients enjoy immediate relief for a few weeks while others report relief that lasts for months. It’s common for many OA patients to get maintenance steroid injections every 3 – 4 months, according to Harvard Health Publishing. For a lot of patients, those routine injections are much preferred over surgery.
The Harvard Health Publishing authors do note that in very rare cases (about 1%) there is a risk of “unusual fractures” or bone damage (osteonecrosis) related to joint injections, as well as the rare risk of infection. To minimize these risks even further, Harvard Health Publishing suggests that pain doctors order x-rays prior to placing the injections. They also stress that joint injections won’t work for everyone, but that “it’s important to keep in mind that even if the average benefit of treatment is small, it does not mean that the treatment is useless.” They also note that steroid injections inherently offer temporary relief, but that “some people do report significant improvement with steroid injections.”
We will work with you to determine if joint injections are the right fit for your pain. Virtual consultations are still available for high-risk patients. Call Integrated Pain Consultants at (480) 626-2552 to learn more about joint injections and other pain management solutions.