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Treating Osteoarthritis with Viscosupplementation

For a long time, the common methods of relieving the pain associated with osteoarthritis (OA) included exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, corticosteroid injections, and pain relievers such as Tylenol or ibuprofen. However, there is a different method of treatment available for osteoarthritis patients which is called viscosupplementation. During osteoarthritis clinical trials, this OA treatment was particularly good at relieving pain in the patient’s knee joint.

The Common Form of Arthritis

Osteoarthritis happens to be the most common type of arthritis in the world. After the cartilage between the bones of the joint has been worn away, osteoarthritis often starts to set in. Many people will wind up developing osteoarthritis as part of the natural aging process, especially if one or two of their joints have been affected by overuse or damage.

After the cartilage has worn away, the bones of the joint start to rub against each other, and this alone can be very painful. Over time, these growths (known as bone spurs) can develop along the edges of the joint, and the bones themselves may start to harden (this is called sclerosis). Eventually, the joint will become inflamed which can cause excruciating pain for the individual.

How Viscosupplementation Works

Now, viscosupplementation was made available for OA patients living in Europe and Asia for several years before the FDA decided to approve it for sale in the United States. After a lengthy investigation, viscosupplementation was approved for treating osteoarthritis pain in the knee.

While taking viscosupplementation, the osteoarthritis patient must follow a procedure which involves a direct injection of hyaluronic acid into the person’s knee joint. This hyaluronic acid will effectively dull the osteoarthritis pain in two ways. The viscosupplementation first acts as a shock absorber against weight load pressure, and this allows the bones of the joint to move over one another smoothly.

If you are familiar with hyaluronic acid, that is because it naturally occurs in the body’s joint fluid. The people who have been diagnosed with osteoarthritis have below-normal level of this acid in their joints. This arthritis treatment is able to increase the level of hyaluronic acid to where it should be.

Osteoarthritis patients will typically get three to five shots of hyaluronic acid over the course of several weeks. However, a doctor can aspirate excess fluid from the affected joint before administering the viscosupplementation injection if it is necessary.

The Effects of the Injection

After the injection has been administered, the patient will not feel immediate relief from their osteoarthritis pain. In fact, some patients may experience a localized reaction to the injection such as slight pain, minor swelling, or a warming sensation. If a reaction does take place, applying an ice pack to the general area can help to reduce the effects.

After the viscosupplementation injection has been administered, osteoarthritis patients are advised not to stand unless necessary. They will also need to avoid any extraneous exercise or heavy lifting for another 2 days after the procedure.  For some, this isn’t too bad, because they get to put their feet up for two days without feeling guilty about it.

A lot of people will notice a significant reduction in joint pain over the course of their treatment, and this relief can last for several months. Since the hyaluronic acid is actually considered to be an anti-inflammatory substance, this treatment may cause the body to increase its own production of hyaluronic acid. In the end, this osteoarthritis treatment isn’t for everyone, and there can be some side effects. Remember to talk to your doctor before making any significant shift in your osteoarthritis medication.

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