Your body makes hyaluronic acid. It's a natural part of the fluid that helps lubricate your joints and keeps them working smoothly. It also acts like a shock absorber. It keeps your bones from bearing the full force of impact when you walk.
When you have osteoarthritis (OA), the hyaluronic acid in the affected joint thins. Hyaluronic acid injections add to your body's natural supply. You may hear your doctor refer to these injections as "viscosupplementation," which literally means they help the fluid in your joints.
Jerry Wade used to love bird-watching with his wife, an avid birder. "I'm not a birder myself, but I like being active and getting out there with her," he says. "Bird-watching puts you into natural areas and some rough terrain -- it's not an easy physical activity."
But in the fall of 2005, the 66-year-old Columbia, Mo., resident, who had retired in 2000 from a career in community development, started noticing "pains and twinges" in his knees. A visit to his doctor in January 2006 brought the diagnosis:...
Doctors can't predict who will benefit from hyaluronic acid injections. But many doctors give them to people with knee OA whose symptoms don’t get better with painkillers or non-drug treatments such as heat or ice.
Depending on which type your doctor uses, you may get a single shot. Or you'll get three to five injections spaced a week apart.
The injection is given the same way for all types. First, the doctor cleans the area. If your knee is swollen with excess fluid, your doctor may inject a local painkiller, then insert a needle into the joint to withdraw excess fluid. With the same needle still in place, the doctor can usually inject the hyaluronic acid into the knee joint.
After an injection, you shouldn't do hard weight-bearing activity for one or two days. Otherwise, you should be able to resume normal activities.
Most insurance companies cover hyaluronic acid injections.
The most common short-term side effects are minor pain at the injection site and minor buildup of joint fluid. These get better within a few days.
Infrequently the injected joint may flare up with increased inflammation.