— Not an actual patient

Types of Joint Injections

Heard about joint injections but unsure of what they are? Here, Dr. Mark Klaassen gives an objective explanation of what they are and why they might be used. 

There are many types joint injections administered in painful joints routinely in the medical world. Many of these injections are used to treat symptoms associated with arthritis, inflammation, and joint pain. In this article, we’ll look at a few common types of joint injections, basic insurance considerations, and more. Let’s get started…

What happens during an injection?

Prior to performing an injection, your doctor will sterilize the injection site with an antibacterial solution and administer a local anesthetic with a small gauge needle. They also may use a cold spray that is applied to the skin. These serve as numbing agents and should help lessen the pain and discomfort during the injection, making the procedure more tolerable to the patient.

Your doctor will then administer the injection with a longer needle that reaches into the joint. The size of the needle is dependent upon the joint being treated. Many joint injections are superficial and relatively easy; however, there are some, such as in the hip or spine, that may require a deeper injection requiring an X-ray image or ultrasound to confirm needle placement.

2 commonly used types of joint injections

1.  Cortisone/steroid injections with local anesthetic

The cortisone injection is a strong anti-inflammatory. The human body produces cortisone, however, when a concentrated amount of cortisone is injected into a joint it is able to reduce inflammation.

There are different types of cortisone injections, including oil base or water-soluble. They are typically administered with a local anesthetic medication.

Some types of Cortisone injections can be repeated every 3 months, or as deemed necessary by your doctor. Joint injections are typically administered by orthopedic surgeons. Many surgeons prohibit injections within 3 months prior to a joint replacement surgery.  

Generally, a patient with a joint replacement prosthesis is not a candidate for a cortisone injection. Occasionally, as determined by the surgeon, a partial joint replacement patient may receive an injection.

2.  Hyaluronic acid injections

Hyaluronic acid works as a lubricant and nutrient for an arthritic joint. It’s often a gel-like or light oil substance. These are administered with a slightly larger needle due to its consistency. It may be administered in one dose, or in a series of 3-5 injections dependent upon the brand and type of hyaluronic acid. If effective, patients can experience relief that lasts anywhere from 6-18 months.

There are additional injection options such as trigger points, local anesthetics, and even nerve freezing, which are all like those mentioned above, but with slight variances in an effort to relieve pain and inflammation.

What do injections cost?

The cost of an injection varies by, not only the type, but by the insurance carrier as well. Many times, insurance companies will provide coverage for cortisone shots. Some may even require it before they will approve more aggressive types of treatment, like joint replacement surgery. Other companies only provide partial coverage, or no coverage at all. Same with hyaluronic acid injections… some cover it, some don’t.

The best way to find the cost of an injection for your treatment plan is to talk to your doctor, their staff, and your insurance company. If you’re not sure who to contact at your insurance company, start with your doctor and his team. They have a lot of experience dealing with insurance companies and should be able to help guide you.

In general, injections can be helpful in alleviating the pain and suffering related to arthritic conditions and injuries. However, over time, they may provide less and less benefit. Talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of injections, and whether an injection might be right for you. Each individual is slightly different in terms of what would provide them with the best benefit based on their condition. To find an orthopedic surgeon near you, click here.

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