Osteoarthritis of the knee is one of the leading causes of disability in India. It 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, arthritis of the knee is treated with nonsurgical methods. Your doctor may recommend a range of treatments, including:
Another treatment option is a procedure called viscosupplementation. If you have tried all other nonsurgical treatment methods and your pain continues to limit your activities, viscosupplementation may be an option.
In this procedure, a gel-like fluid called hyaluronic acid is injected into the knee joint. Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring substance found in the synovial fluid surrounding joints. It acts as a lubricant to enable bones to move smoothly over each other and as a shock absorber for joint loads. People with osteoarthritis have a lower-than-normal concentration of hyaluronic acid in their joints. The theory is that adding hyaluronic acid to the arthritic joint will facilitate movement and reduce pain.
Although some patients report pain relief with the procedure, some people are not helped by the injections. Several preparations of hyaluronic acid are now commercially available.
These symptoms generally do not last long. You should apply an ice pack to help ease them.
As is noted above, some patients will not be helped by viscosupplementation. For those who report pain relief with the procedure, it may take several weeks to notice an improvement. How long the effects last varies. Some patients report pain relieving effects for several months following the injections.
If the injections are effective they may be repeated after a period of time, usually 6 months to 1 year.
Although some patients report relief of arthritis symptoms with viscosupplementation, the procedure has never been shown to reverse the arthritic process or re-grow cartilage.
The effectiveness of viscosupplementation in treating arthritis is not clear. It has been proposed that viscosupplementation is most effective if the arthritis is in its early stages (mild to moderate), but more research is needed to support this. Research in viscosupplementation and its long-term effects continues.