Joint injections for arthritis are a commonly-used tool to help alleviate pain in many patients. Here’s why people may opt for this procedure, and what you can expect.
What does joint pain feel like?
There are different types of joints in your body and most are related to movement. The back and neck have spinal bones (vertebra), each vertebra has two facet joints, which connect the vertebrae together and allow for limited spine movement. The majority of joints in the human body are synovial joints. Each of these joints can suffer from arthritis.
A joint is anywhere two bones or more connect together. Most often, acute joint pain occurs in the highly movable joints, such as your knees, hips, shoulders, and hands. Back and neck pain, related to the vertebra are also a common source of joint pain. Others may feel arthritis pain in their toes or finger joints.
Joint pain can range from mild pain, to pain upon movement, or to severe pain that makes moving the joint impossible.
Joint pain may be acute, sharp and sudden pain, and arise from an injury or trauma from a specific activity or event. It may be chronic, an ache that comes on gradually, and related to an underlying condition. An injury or trauma may turn into a chronic pain condition. If pain starts as an injury and doesn’t begin to alleviate within 48 hours to a few weeks, it may be a symptom of a pre-existing or underlying condition.
What causes joint pain?
There are many causes of joint pain. Joint injections for arthritis pain target some of the most common causes of joint pain like:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
Other causes of joint pain can include:
- Sacroiliac joint disease
- Injury or trauma
Osteoarthritis is most common cause of joint pain. It’s often called “wear and tear” arthritis, as it occurs over time and is often attributed to the aging process.
Osteoarthritis is a chronic and progressive condition related to a thinning of bone cartilage and formation of bony spurs (osteophyte) in joint spaces. Most individuals have some osteoarthritis development by the age of 70.
The specific cause of osteoarthritis is presently unknown. It’s not just a disease of aging, but rather the result of a combination of factors including genetics, joint degeneration, and other mechanical processes.
A condition of the autoimmune system, rheumatoid arthritis most frequently affects people between the ages of 20 and 40 but can strike at any time. This type of arthritis may arise as a condition secondary to another immune disorder such as lupus.
In addition, rheumatoid arthritis may be accompanied by malaise (a general feeling of being unwell) and is often bilateral (occurs in both of the same joint on each side of the body).
This condition is characterized by sudden, severe attacks of pain, redness and tenderness in joints, often the knees, legs or the joint at the base of the big toe.
Gout occurs when urate crystals accumulate in a joint, causing the inflammation and intense pain of a gout attack.
Bursitis is related to the bursa, small sacs of fluid that cushion the area between a tendon and a bone. The most common locations for bursitis are in the elbow, shoulder and hip. It can happen in the knee, heel and the base of the big toe. Bursitis most often occurs in joints that perform frequent repetitive motion.
Sacroiliac joint disease
Lower back pain often is related to the sacroiliac joint. The sacroiliac joint links the lower spine and the pelvis together. Many strong ligaments and muscles support these joints, which are located on both sides of the lower back.
As part of the aging process, sometimes the joint begins to fuse together. In some cases arthritis can also develop in this joint.
Risk factors for arthritis
While osteoarthritis may be a result of age and use and rheumatoid and juvenile arthritis originate in the immune system, there are a few risk factors for developing any type. These include:
- Repetitive motions
- Increasing age
- Genetic predisposition
- Smoking, steroid use, and use of alcohol
- Previous joint injury
- Physically demanding work
Where to start with joint injections for arthritis
Your first step is to get a diagnosis to understand what’s causing your pain. Visit a doctor if you’re experiencing:
- Severe joint pain
- Redness, swelling, or tenderness
- Heat in the joint area
- Any pain that doesn’t resolve or alleviate after a few weeks
As part of the medical exam, the physician will take a medical history and perform a physical assessment of the painful joint. Additional questions about when the pain started, and detailed pain description are valuable information for an accurate diagnosis.
The physician will most likely order one or more visual tests; such as X-ray, computerized tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or a bone scan. MRIs are especially useful before any procedures are performed.
How to treat joint pain from arthritis
Before starting with joint injections for arthritis, your doctor will attempt less invasive procedures to see if they help. Often, you’ll undergo both approaches. For example, your doctor may recommend getting joint injections to relieve your pain enough so that you can also undergo physical therapy. In this way, you can help fix the underlying cause of your pain.
Exercises such as swimming, walking and yoga can be beneficial for those with joint pain. These types of exercises are considered low-impact, with minimal stress on the joints; and help to maintain range of motion.
Physical therapy sessions may help with joint pain through improving and sustaining range of motion. A physical therapist can create an exercise and stretching program, which is catered and specific to the individual patient’s abilities, limitations, and goals.
Medications can also help manage most joint pain. The medications include the over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, known as NSAIDs. Prescription NSAIDs may also help arthritis-related joint pain.
These anti-inflammatory medications can reduce the inflammation causing pain, swelling, and stiffness common with joint pain.
Joint injections for arthritis pain
For many, arthritis means daily pain and difficulty getting creaky, aching joints to move. While there are many different treatment options that can address this pain, there is good evidence that joint injections for arthritis can help manage pain.
Joint injections typically use a corticosteroid and anesthetic to help numb the affected area and reduce inflammation. Joint injections are sometimes useful as a diagnostic tool for the physician as well. If the joint injection produces a pain reduction, than it’s easier for a physician to arrive at a complete and accurate diagnosis.
There are different types of joint injections utilized depending on the intended result and where in the body you’re experiencing pain. Let’s look at these in more detail.
Knees are one of the most common places for arthritis to occur in the body. This hard-working joint consists of four bones that support all of the weight in our body. Over time, the cartilage of this joint can become worn down, and the tendons and ligaments may become strained and stretched with overuse. This can result in severe, debilitating osteoarthritis that does not respond to over-the-counter medication or other therapeutic treatments.
There are multiple types of knee joint injections, each depending on the severity of the injury. As with other joint injections, doctors may choose a combination of corticosteroids and anesthetic for more mild forms of knee pain. You can watch a video of a knee joint injection procedure below.
Facet joints are the small bony parts in the spine that connect one vertebra to the other. Pain in the facet joint occurs when there is damage or degeneration of either the joint itself or the protective cartilage that surrounds the joint. Arthritis can be a primary cause of this type of pain.
These joint injections are not only a treatment option but also a diagnostic tool. Pain management specialists inject an anesthetic and a steroid directly into the affected facet joint. If a patient experiences immediate relief after the procedure, then the problem has been diagnosed correctly. If not, doctors know to continue their search.
Sacroiliac joint injections may be performed for patients who experience significant back pain as a result of arthritis.
Over time, as with osteoarthritis, the cartilage and synovial fluid between the ileum and the sacrum may wear down, causing pain. These injections are made directly into the sacroiliac joint or in the surrounding tissue to decrease back pain. Relief from these injections typically lasts up to a month.
Ankle injections are often recommended for athletes and for the elderly who suffer from arthritis in that joint. Injury to the ankle makes it susceptible to developing arthritis later on, and ankle joint injections can help with the stiffness, swelling, and pain that arises. As with a facet joint injection, doctors inject a corticosteroid and an anesthetic into the joint. Ankle injections are generally recommended only after traditional methods of pain relief have been utilized (e.g. over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen).
For joint injections that are addressing an injury as opposed to arthritis, this procedure can allow a patient to undergo physical therapy and rehabilitation with less pain. For those patients with arthritis in the ankle, these joint injections can restore mobility and decrease pain significantly.
This is another type of injection that uses the patient’s own plasma, reducing not only pain and inflammation but also the chance of infection. This type of injection not only helps with inflammation and pain but also helps speed healing of injured tissues.
Injections of hyaluronic acid can help with inflammation but also help to lubricate the joint. This is especially effective for patients with diminished synovial fluid in the knee joint.
What can I expect after a joint injection for arthritis?
Each type of joint injection usually takes between 45 minutes to two hours to administer from start to finish. Most patients experience immediate pain relief following the 24-hour period of rest suggested.
Although the procedure is minimally-invasive, there are some risks and side effects, including bruising at the injection site, facial flushing, bleeding, allergic reaction, and infection. It is important to discuss the risks and benefits with your doctor thoroughly before proceeding.
If joint injections for arthritis don’t help, your doctor may suggest joint replacement surgery. Surgery is considered the last option and used only when other treatment options have failed or stopped working to ease pain. The most common kinds of joint replacements are the hips and knees, either total or partial replacements.
While replacement surgery may alleviate severe and painful joint pain, the recovery time after surgery is often long. There is also a higher potential for complications and risks than with less invasive treatment options.
To learn more about joint injections for arthritis, you should talk to your doctor. You can also find a pain specialist in your area by clicking the button below or looking for one in your area by using the tips here: https://paindoctor.com/pain-management-doctors/.