Are Injections Helpful for Knee Arthritis?
An injection for knee arthritis is usually one of the options you hear about when at an orthopedic doctor or surgeon appointment. Knee injections can help to reduce inflammation and irritation in certain circumstances but may not always be the best choice.
One of the most common injection types is a cortisone injection. Injections are not required for pain relief from osteoarthritis. But, they can indeed be helpful, especially in instances of severe pain that does not respond to other types of treatment.
It’s also true though that injections may not be as beneficial as once thought. so it may be worth exploring other options before opting for an injection for knee arthritis.
According to an article posted in the Journal of Radiology in 2019, some people have adverse reactions following cortisone shots. For example, the progression of osteoarthritis and cartilage breakdown may result in larger doses.
How Do I Decide If and When to Get an Injection?
Before an injection, it is worth trying other conservative measures, especially if your pain is on the lower end of a 0-10 scale.
I usually recommend certain exercises and other lifestyle strategies to reduce irritation first. The risks are significantly less and can lead to longer-term pain relief if successful.
Please note that if your pain levels are high and start to negatively impact your quality of life, a cortisone shot may be appropriate. They can provide some immediate relief to help you start on these other lifestyle factors listed below.
You can maximize the effects by incorporating the right type of exercise, food choices, and stress management so you can support your joints.
Weigh the pros and cons of the injection before making the decision. It is also worth knowing you have options besides the injection to relieve pain. Here are three things I recommend to my clients before proceeding with an injection. Most of the time, these options can bring a surprising level of pain relief!
Three Things to Try Before an Injection for Knee Arthritis
Before you decide you need an injection, try to remedy the situation yourself. Here are three suggestions.
Increase your movement.
I know that moving more is easier said than done, especially with the pain and stiffness that can be associated with knee osteoarthritis. That doesn’t change the fact that it is one of the most important ways to find relief. The more sedentary you are, the worse your pain will likely be.
Joints, cartilage, muscle, and bone all love movement. Without it, structures can become weak and irritable. Without support from muscles in particular- the joint and cartilage have to take on more stress- more than they want to. Exercise that doesn’t flare up your pain is possible.
If you start simply including small amounts of movement into your daily life, especially sideways and backward- you will be surprised at how it feels. I often find that just starting with simple changes can make a big difference and allow you to get back to doing your daily tasks without needing an injection. I recommend giving it a try for about two to three weeks to see how your joints respond to the right type of movement before going the injection route.
Look at your diet.
Food can make a large difference when it comes to osteoarthritis pain and joint irritation, but it often is overlooked. If you are eating certain foods that tend to increase inflammation such as seed oils (soybean, canola, etc.), processed sugars, and other refined carbohydrates, you may be making your joints very unhappy.
Each person does have different triggers so it is important to figure out which foods may cause your joints to respond adversely. One of the best ways to do this is to try to significantly reduce the frequency at which you are eating one of the food ingredients from above for about a month.
I personally know so many people who have found drastic pain relief from decreasing processed sugar intake alone. The best way to see the most success is with consistency for at least three to four weeks. I recommend looking at the foods you are eating and seeing if you can make at least one consistent change before trying an injection for knee arthritis.
It is important to note that stress does play a role in inflammation. Stressors from a busy job, family, relationships, etc. can irritate your joints and flare your pain.
One client I worked with in the past was dealing with pretty significant knee pain and it just wasn’t letting up no matter what she tried. After delving into the causes of her pain, we realized that stress was a big part of why she was continuing to have pain. She had been in a toxic relationship for some time and after removing herself from the situation, she realized how it had affected her knees.
First, you can start by identifying a stressor that is playing a big part in your life. Then the next step is to find a way to cope with the stress. Whether it’s removing yourself from the situation, using meditation or exercise to help bring relaxation, seeking out professional help, or other strategies. You may be surprised at the difference in the way that your joints feel.
It is important to understand, identify, and take action on any potential stressors because even with an injection for knee arthritis, your pain may return rather quickly.
The Bottom Line
An injection for knee arthritis can be effective at treating immediate pain relief. Long-term use is not recommended due to the adverse side effects that may be present.
Before choosing an injection, I recommend you take a look at how much you are moving, the foods you are eating, and if any major stressors are present. This way, you can try to do what is in your power to change your pain without relying on external treatments.
I have seen many people find significant pain relief with these lifestyle changes and I want to make sure you don’t miss out on potential opportunities for relief!
You may also like:
- 5 Exercises for Joint Pain – Why Variety is the key to Relief.
- Tips on How to Loosen Your Tight Hip (and Stretching Isn’t the Answer!)
- 4 Ways to Reduce Swelling of the Knee So You Can Adventure!
About the Author: Dr. Alyssa Kuhn
Dr. Alyssa Kuhn is a physical therapist and osteoarthritis specialist. She founded Keep the Adventure Alive to show the world that an osteoarthritis diagnosis is not necessarily a death sentence to everything you love doing! Dr. Kuhn helps people all around the world find pain relief, regain confidence, and reignite adventure through virtual services and online programs. She breaks through the doom and gloom and brings a fresh, positive perspective to help your arthritic joints. You can create your arthritis adventure, and she is on a mission to show you how. Learn more about Dr. Kuhn on her YouTube channel or website.
NOTE: This article does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The information provided here are opinion of the author and is not to be construed as medical advice.