What Are Hyaluronic Acid Joint Injections?

Medically Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on September 13, 2023
2 min read

If you have osteoarthritis that affects your knees, an injection of hyaluronic acid could help ease your pain and stiffness.

People with arthritis get these shots to help lubricate their joints so that they work more smoothly.

Your doctor can let you know if it would help you based on your symptoms and other treatments you’ve tried. Though the shots have been available for more than a decade, studies on how effective they are have shown mixed results.



Normal synovial fluid contains a substance present throughout the body's soft tissues. It helps lubricate your joints. If you have osteoarthritis, your supply of synovial fluid has thinned.

The procedure is simple. Your doctor injects hyaluronic acid directly into your knee joint. Most people get a shot a week for 3 to 5 weeks. The FDA has only approved this treatment for people with osteoarthritis of the knee, but some people get it in other joints as well.

There are different brands of hyaluronic acid that haven't been shown to differ in their effectiveness.


Hyaluronic acid joint injections don’t work for everyone. The research is mixed on how well they work. They seem to work better for some people than for others. If you are older or have advanced osteoarthritis, you may be less likely to find relief from this treatment.

Usually, people only try hyaluronan when treatments like physical therapy, exercise, and injections with painkillers and steroids don’t provide enough help.

One advantage is that the side effects, such as swelling and discomfort on the area of your skin where you get the shot, are mild. Since the risks are small, your doctor may think that hyaluronan is worth a try, especially if your only other option is surgery.

Hyaluronan may also be a good choice if you have trouble with side effects of other treatments. For instance, some people can’t take common painkillers such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen because of the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding. And steroid injections, another common treatment for osteoarthritis, can harm your joints if overused.

Check with your insurance company before you start this treatment. Some cover the injections, but not all do. You’ll want to know ahead of time, since the shots are expensive.