Benefits of Joint Injections

Benefits of Joint Injections

Joint pain is a very common complaint as people age.  This pain can range from mild to severe and is typically caused by inflammation.  In some cases, joint pain is so severe it prevents people from partaking in normal daily activities.  Often, normal medication is not enough to stop the pain.  Fortunately, physicians can perform joint injections to help relieve pain and allow the patient to return to normal daily activities.


Joint injections are minimally invasive procedures.  They are relatively quick, taking anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes to complete.  Candidates typically include patients who suffer from arthritis or injury, and who have not responded to more conservative forms of treatment, such as oral anti-inflammatory medication or physical therapy.  People who have an active infection or bleeding problems are typically not considered candidates.


Patients are given a local anesthetic to help with discomfort during the joint injection procedure.  A fluoroscope is used to help the physician guide the needle into the affected joint.  If there is a significant amount of fluid buildup, the physical may opt to aspirate the fluid before proceeding.  At this point, the physician injects a local anesthetic and anti-inflammatory steroid straight into the joint.  In some cases, the ligaments and surrounding nerves may be injected as well.


Recovery is typically short.  In some cases, the physician may keep the patient for a short period immediately after the injection.  However, most patients are capable of walking on their own immediately after the procedure.  Complications are rare.  However, side effects can include allergic reactions, flare-up swelling, or rupture of a tendon near the injection site.  For this reason, repeated injections into the same site should be avoided to help limit the likelihood of side effects.


While some patients may feel more pain in the immediate days following a joint injection, this increase in pain typically lasts only a couple of days.  Joint injections normally help reduce pain by reducing inflammation in the joint.  This pain relief can last anywhere from a week to multiple years.  In some cases, it can even be a permanent fix.  Patients often see a loss of function due to severe pain in the joint.  Therefore, joint injections can help patients regain function and perform normal day to day activities again.  Joint injections can help prevent the need for oral steroids or prevent an increase in steroid dose, which can have dangerous side effects.  Also, joint injections may prevent the patient from turning to prescription pain killers, which can lead to dependence and addiction problems.


Many people will find themselves suffering from joint pain as they age.  Joint injections are not without risks.  However, when performed by a knowledgeable physician, complications are rare, and side effects are much less than alternative treatment methods.  When patients have tried multiple conservative approaches to relieve joint pain without success, joint injections may prove to be a strong next step.  Joint injections provide an alternative to surgery and help patients regain physical function and better quality of life.