Treating knee arthritis is a step-by-step process. Conservative, non-invasive treatment options are always tried first: rest, ice, activity/lifestyle modification, and medications are usually enough to reduce the symptoms of mild to moderate arthritis. But, when they’re not, minimally invasive treatments are available and widely used. One such treatment option is viscosupplementation.
Viscosupplements: What They Are
Viscosupplements contain hyaluronic acid—a natural substance found in the synovial fluid that surrounds and lubricates the knee joint. During viscosupplementation, the supplements, which come in a gel-like fluid, are administered via injection into the knee joint. Because patients with knee arthritis have a lower-than-normal concentration of hyaluronic acid in their joint(s), viscosupplementation can increase their knee joint mobility and decrease their arthritis-related symptoms, such as stiffness and pain.
Illustration 1- Knee anatomy. Synovial fluid lubricates the joint.
Viscosupplements: What They Aren’t
Viscosupplements can help patients with knee arthritis, but they can neither cure the condition nor regrow torn/lost cartilage. In fact, no current treatment option can—arthritis is a chronic condition. The goal when treating is to slow the progression and decreasing/eliminating its presenting symptoms.
How Viscosupplements Are Used
Viscosupplements are usually used as part of a complete arthritis treatment plan prescribed by an orthopedic specialist. Some other treatment options that might be used in conjunction with viscosupplements are:
- Physical therapy. Increasing the range of motion and strength increases joint mobility.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs decrease inflammation and pain.
- Knee braces may help keep the joint aligned and ensure it moves properly.
The supplements are administered once-a-week for a period of three to five weeks depending on the type of viscosupplementation regiment used. Following the last injection, they can be given again after six months.
Orthopedic specialists are the most trained and qualified medical professionals to treat knee arthritis. Their understanding of the condition and experience treating it helps them create appropriate and effective treatment plans, that may include viscosupplementation. Dr. Nicholas Alexander is the founder of Mahwah Valley Orthopedic Associates and a Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeon specializing in both the surgical and non-surgical treatment of hip and knee conditions. Dr. Alexander completed his Fellowship in Adult Reconstruction and Reconstructive Surgery of the Hip and Knee at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and has over two decades of experience. He also serves as the Chairman of the Valley Hospital Total Joint Center.
If you suffer from knee arthritis and haven’t found a solution, please don’t hesitate to contact our office to arrange an appointment. We will provide you with the solution you’ve been looking for—the road to a normal, pain-free life starts when you walk through our doors.