Maybe it starts with a little twinge in the knee when you go up the stairs. Perhaps it is harder to unscrew a jar of peanut butter, or maybe your strained shoulder just hasn’t felt good (or moved well) since it healed. For many conditions, joint injections can help relieve pain and inflammation that occurs in the different joints of your body. Here’s what you should know.
How can joint injections help with my pain?
Joint pain is some of the most challenging types of pain to address. Our joints carry us through our everyday lives, and if they aren’t working well, neither are we.
Joint injections can help. Traditional joint injections consist of an anesthetic for pain (e.g., lidocaine), with some also adding a corticosteroid to combat inflammation. Innovative joint injections of hyaluronic acid or platelet-rich plasma are also gaining traction for their pain- and inflammation-relieving properties.
No matter which proven protocol you choose with your doctor, joint injections can help restore your mobility and reduce your pain.
What are the different types of joint injections?
There are many different types of joint injections, usually classified by the joints in which they are injected or the active materials used in the injections. The joint injection that is right for you will depend on the condition causing your pain and where it is located in the body.
Joint injections may not be for everyone. Patients who are taking blood thinners should talk to their doctors before their joint injection for instructions. Similarly, patients who are pregnant (or may become pregnant) should talk to their doctors.
Facet joint injections
The facet joints are bony protrusions that connect each vertebra to the ones above and below it. These allow the spine to move and twist but can be exceptionally painful when injury or deterioration occurs. Pressure on the nerves that thread around these joints is called facet joint syndrome.
Steroid joint injections not only relieve pain but can also be initially used as a diagnostic tool. If an injection does not relieve the pain, for example, facet joint syndrome is probably not the underlying cause of your pain.
Joint injections for arthritis
Arthritis can occur in any joint of your body. Joint injections for arthritis can restore mobility and reduce painful inflammation from chronic conditions.
Often, this can allow you to undergo physical therapy or an exercise program to reduce the overall pressure on the joint and tightness in the muscles around it. By using a comprehensive approach, you can find long-term pain reduction.
Knee joint injections
Knee joint injections for arthritis pain or other injury really focus on relieving pain so that other treatment (e.g., physical therapy and prescribed exercise) is possible.
When knee pain sends you to the sidelines, it can start a vicious cycle of inactivity that makes pain worse.
Sacroiliac joint injections
The sacroiliac joint attaches the spine to the pelvis. When this joint becomes injured or inflamed, patients can feel significant, debilitating pain in their lower back, buttocks, groin, and lower extremities.
Injections into this joint can help.
Ankle injections are used when an injury to the ankle causes inflammation and pain beyond the typical recovery period.
While this is not a first-line treatment for sprains, strains, or breaks, in some cases relief can be profound when other treatments are unsuccessful. Injections are usually applied to the joint itself and in the surrounding soft tissue to reduce inflammation.
Damage to the musculoskeletal system of the shoulder girdle can cause a significant amount of pain and loss of mobility, particularly as the joint heals.
An intraarticular peripheral injection into the shoulder can help target inflammation in the nerves to reduce pain as physical therapy begins.
Platelet-rich plasma injections
Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections use plasma extracted from the patient’s own blood to promote healing in the joint into which it is injected.
Just how PRP injections work to promote healing is not entirely understood, but many studies have shown their effectiveness for a variety of joint issues, including tendinitis in the knee and tennis elbow.
Hyaluronic acid injections
Injected hyaluronic acid does double duty, increasing the lubrication in the joint and providing cushioning while it does so.
This is great for joint pain caused by a lack of synovial fluid that usually helps smooth movement.
What can I expect during a joint injection?
After discussing all of your options and choosing the most appropriate approach for you and your lifestyle, your doctor will prepare for your appointment. Your comfort is one of our most important concerns, so we’ll discuss how to get ready before your appointment, what you can expect during, and any aftercare instructions.
To perform the injection, your doctor starts with a sterilized surface, numbs the area with a local anesthetic, and use fluoroscopic guidance to perform the injection. After the procedure, you’ll rest comfortably for a few moments before going on about your day. The entire procedure takes between 45 minutes to an hour.
Resting for 24 hours following the injection is a good idea. This gives the injection time to work. Many patients experience immediate relief following the injection.
Depending on the type of injection and its location, most joint injections can be repeated from four to six times per year.
Joint injections recovery time
Joint injection recovery time is minimal, with most patients up and about doing their normal activities within 24 hours.
Although joint injections are considered a minimally-invasive procedure, as with every medical intervention there is a risk of side effects. Mild side effects include soreness, slight swelling, and bruising at the injection site. These can be treated with an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen. An ice pack applied to the injection site can help control swelling as well.
Other potential side effects include:
- Allergic reaction
- Redness in the face
Should you experience pain or excessive swelling that gets worse at the injection site, fever, or a general feeling of being unwell, call your doctor immediately. These symptoms can be signs of a potentially serious complication, and it is important to follow up with your doctor.
Alliance Pain Solution are West Phoenix pain doctors who welcome patients from all over the Valley. If your joint pain is making your life miserable, get in touch today. We can help!