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How Viscosupplementation for Knee Osteoarthritis Can Prevent the Need for Surgery

Joints are architectural marvels that allow the human body to move, bend, and flex in myriad ways — unless you have osteoarthritis.

With no cure, this progressive disease can seem like a one-way ticket to lifelong pain and eventual surgery, but viscosupplementation may offer a hopeful detour.

New Jersey’s leading pain specialist, Dr. Jay M. Shah at SamWell Institute for Pain Management, approaches knee osteoarthritis differently. Rather than prescribing pain medication to mask the symptoms or surgery, which involves risks, he often recommends viscosupplementation to lubricate your knee from within.

Here’s how viscosupplementation can relieve your pain, increase your mobility, and delay or eliminate your need for surgery.  

Understanding knee osteoarthritis

Knee osteoarthritis occurs when the natural cushioning in your joints wears down over time. The resulting bone-on-bone rubbing causes pain, stiffness, and immobility. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 53.2 million Americans have been diagnosed with at least one form of arthritis — there are over 100 types. While arthritis can affect many different joints, the knees often bear the brunt due to longer lifespans and more active lifestyles.

Initially, knee osteoarthritis might just be a twinge or a barely noticeable stiffness. However, as the condition progresses, simple tasks like ascending stairs or even standing up from a chair can become tests of endurance and pain tolerance. If left unchecked, the stiff knee causing discomfort today can become a lifelong companion of chronic agony tomorrow.

Introducing viscosupplementation

Viscosupplementation is a simple yet groundbreaking treatment for those battling knee osteoarthritis. 

Dr. Shah injects a gel-like substance called hyaluronic acid directly into your knee joint. This gel acts as a lubricant and a shock absorber, allowing the joint’s components to move more smoothly. Think of it as an oil change for your knees that helps restore the natural balance and cushioning that once made walking and running effortless.

The procedure begins with an injection guided by ultrasound or fluoroscopy, ensuring the hyaluronic acid reaches the intended target within the knee joint. Dr. Shah administers viscosupplementation during routine outpatient visits, and recovery is quick — most people return to their daily activities as soon as the next day.

The benefits of viscosupplementation

The most immediate benefits you’re likely to experience are the relief of pain and increased mobility, which allow you to do things you might have otherwise shied away from due to discomfort or fear of further aggravating your knees. 

Furthermore, the protective nature of hyaluronic acid may also slow the progression of osteoarthritis, potentially extending the window before surgery becomes necessary, if it does at all.

Comparative effectiveness research has shown that viscosupplementation can provide a more favorable pain relief profile than oral analgesics alone, without the risks associated with long-term use of those medications, such as stomach ulcers or liver toxicity. 

Who is the ideal candidate for viscosupplementation?

Not everyone with knee osteoarthritis is a prime candidate for viscosupplementation. 

Typically, Dr. Shah recommends viscosupplementation for those who haven’t achieved adequate relief from more conservative measures like exercise, weight management, or pain medications. It’s particularly beneficial in the early-to-moderate stages of osteoarthritis, where the joint may still retain some of its function and integrity.

Side effects of viscosupplementation

It’s rare for a medical procedure to be entirely without side effects, and viscosupplementation is no exception. 

However, the potential discomfort or swelling at the injection site is generally mild and temporary, resolving on its own within a few days. In rare cases, patients may experience an allergic reaction to the hyaluronic acid itself.

If your knees whisper warnings of what could come, don’t wait until they shout in agony. Take the initiative to explore treatment options that could preserve pain-free walking, sitting, and running. 

Viscosupplementation is just one possible path to that preservation. Dr. Shah also specializes in other nonsurgical orthopedic treatments, such as:

To schedule a consultation with Dr. Shah, book online or call SamWell Institute for Pain Management in Colonia, Livingston, or Englewood, New Jersey.

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