Do you have sore arthritic knees that keep you from enjoying the simple pleasures in life? If you experience daily pain and stiffness from osteoarthritis of the knees, your doctor may have offered to give you a steroid injection to help relieve some of the chronic pain and discomfort. Arthritis steroid injections into the knees are thought to reduce some of the inflammatory changes that cause arthritic knees to be so painful and stiff with movement, particularly when you get up in the morning. Do they really work and are there side effects?
According to a meta-analysis (an analysis of a group of studies), arthritis steroid injections appear to provide some relief of joint pain, at least temporarily. The researchers found that patients who received knee joint injections for osteoarthritis had significantly lower levels of pain during the week after the injections. At the end of a three week period to four week period, most patients continued to report reduced pain, depending upon the type of steroid medication they were injected with. Side effects were rare with the exception of pain during the injection procedure.
Although arthritis steroid injections appear to be safe with few side effects in the short-term, some experts are concerned about the potential long-term effects of this form of osteoarthritis treatment, particularly if they’re done repeatedly. The concern is that repeated injections could lead to destruction of the joint space, although a study published in 2003 showed no deterioration of the joint after two years of regular injections.
If you have painful osteoarthritis of the knees, should you get arthritis steroid injections? The advantage to getting this treatment is that it can provide prompt pain relief. This can be helpful if you need immediate pain control until the other medications your doctor prescribed start to work. They probably shouldn’t be used as a long-term solution to pain since no one is sure whether they do harm if given over a long period of time. Plus, if your osteoarthritis is advanced, you may not get the same benefits as someone with a milder form of the disease. There’s also the problem of pain during the injection process. Some people consider the prospect of getting an injection into a joint such as the knee to be difficult to tolerate.
On the positive side, getting an arthritis steroid injection may allow you a few weeks to a few months pain relief so you can start on an exercise program to strengthen the knees which can reduce pain by taking some of the pressure off the joints. Other approaches that can be explored with your doctor are nutritional therapies using omega-3’s or glucosamines and the use of anti-inflammatory medications. Of course, it’s always healthier if you can use natural approaches to relieve pain whenever possible to avoid the potential side effects of anti-inflammatory medications.
The bottom line? Arthritis steroid injections are best used to provide short-term relief of osteoarthritis knee pain until you can start an exercise program or physical therapy to strengthen the muscles around the knees.They shouldn’t be considered a long-term solution to your osteoarthritis symptoms.