Joint injections can be a very effective method of obtaining relief from a variety of conditions and injuries affecting a joint. The medications administered during these injections only affect the targeted area and do not usually cause side effects. Joint injections are commonly used by doctors to treat conditions such as gout, tendinitis, bursitis, arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and occasionally osteoarthritis. Joint injections can also be useful for diagnosing many conditions that impact joints by determining the cause of a patient’s pain, stiffness, and limited range of motion.
Joint injections may be administered to relieve pain in the:
Joint injections are minimally invasive procedures that are typically performed under local anesthesia in either a doctor’s office or a hospital. The procedure generally takes about 20 minutes to complete. After the surface of the skin is thoroughly cleaned, a needle attached to a syringe is inserted into the joint. Corticosteroid medications may be administered to reduce the inflammation in the joint. A numbing agent, such as lidocaine, may also be administered in order to relieve the pain in the affected joint. Not only will a joint injection alleviate painful symptoms, but the injection may also help the doctor determine the source of the joint pain.
In some cases, excess fluid in the joint can be removed, or aspirated, from the joint as well. Any fluid obtained from a joint injection will be examined in a laboratory. Once the fluid that has been removed is analyzed, the cause of the joint problem may be identified. A determination may be able to be made as to whether the joint is infected or if a condition, such as gout, bursitis or arthritis, is present. The process of draining the fluid also typically serves to increase the range of motion in the joint and reduce the patient’s pain level.
Risks of a Joint Injection
Joint injections are generally considered safe for the majority of patients. While any injection carries a small risk for infection, the risk associated with this procedure is quite low. Patients with pre-existing health conditions, such as diabetes, may face a greater chance of developing a complication, which needs to be discussed with a doctor prior to undergoing this treatment.
Other possible risks of a joint injection may include:
- Joint swelling
- Bladder dysfunction
- Allergic reaction to the medication injected into the joint
- Skin depigmentation
- Thinning of the skin at the injection site
- Pain throughout the body for several hours after the injection
Results of a Joint Injection
The results of a joint injection are usually immediate, although only temporary. Pain relief and increased function in the joint may last for up to six months. In some cases, patients may not experience respite after the first injection. However, up to three injections can safely be performed within a six-month period, provided at least two to three weeks apart. Repeated injections may offer an extended reduction of symptoms.
In most cases, the patient is able to return to work and other normal activities after a day or two of recovery, and the joint pain is significantly reduced. However, if there is no difference in the amount of pain a patient is experiencing within a few days of the joint injection, further treatment may be recommended.
Ultrasound Guided in Office Injections
Ultrasound can be utilized to more accurately perform in office injections. Ultrasound can improve the success rate and reduce complications for in office procedures. Conditions such as Calcific tendinitis, impingement syndrome, tendonitis and joint effusion can be treated more precisely and effectively with ultrasound guidance.