FAQs on Joint Injections (Wrist, Hip, Knee, Shoulder, Ankle, Elbow)

Joint injections are used to treat pain and inflammation associated with the joint spaces. The most commonly injected joint is the knee, which is the largest joint of the body. Other joints injected include the hip, shoulder, elbow, wrist, and ankle.

Who is a candidate for a joint injection?

Around 50% of adults age 65 years and older have some form of arthritis or joint pain, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). The most common reason for joint injection is osteoarthritis (OA), which is the most common type of arthritis. OA causes inflammation and degradation of joint cartilage.

What are the types of joint injections?

The type of injection given depends on the joint affected, the patient’s failure or response to treatment, and the pain specialist’s protocol. Options include:

  • Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) – The patient’s blood is drawn and spun in a centrifuge to obtain concentrated platelets. These platelets are injected into the damaged or injured joint.
  • Corticosteroid injection – Triamcinolone and dexamethasone are two steroids used to reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Hyaluronic acid injection – Also called viscosupplementation, this solution is similar to synovial fluid, which cushions and lubricates the joint.

What types of wrist and hand conditions are treated with joint injections?

Joint injections are used for:

  • Trigger finger
  • de Quervain’s tenosynovitis
  • Wrist ganglion cysts
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Epicondylitis

What ankle and foot conditions are treated with joint injections?

Joint injections are used for:

  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Gout
  • Arthritis
  • Arthrosis
  • Tarsal tunnel syndrome

How do I prepare for a joint injection?

There is no stay overnight involved with the joint injection procedure, and no anesthesia or sedatives are given during the office visit. Most joint injections are done in the doctor’s office. Be sure to notify the doctor beforehand of all your medical conditions and current medications.

How is the joint injection done?

The doctor may choose to use ultrasound-guidance or x-ray technology to assure correct needle placement during the procedure. The doctor first cleans the area, and then numbs the region with a local anesthetic. Once the needle is inside the joint, the medication or platelets are injected. A small bandage is applied to the site after the needle is removed.

What can I expect after the joint injection?

The joint will be sore for a few hours after the procedure. With PRP injections, the tenderness takes 1-2 days to resolve. However, after the recovery period, most people report pain relief and improved joint function. We recommend that you rest for the remainder of the day and gradually return to usual activities.

Do joint injections work?

According to research, the pain relief following a corticosteroid or hyaluronic acid joint injection is around 3-6 months. The efficacy rate for corticosteroid injection is around 80-90%, which shows more effective than placebo. Hyaluronic acid injection has around a 75% success rate, according to a recent research study. In addition, PRP injections have been shown to offer significant pain relief, as well as mobility of the joint.

What are the benefits of these injections?

Joint injections are safe, cost-effective, and have few risks. Many patients who receive a joint injection enjoy less pain and greater mobility.

What complications are associated with joint injections?

The results of a joint injection varies from patient-to-patient. While rare, some risks must be considered. These include nerve damage, bleeding, infection, and allergic reaction to the medications used. Some patients experience side effects to corticosteroids, such as elevated blood sugar, weight gain, and increased blood pressure. Since hyaluronic acid comes from chicken and rooster combs, patients with egg/poultry allergies should avoid these injections.

Resources

Lambert RGW, Hutchings EJ, Grace MGA, et al. (2007). Steroid injection for osteoarthritis of the hip. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Arthritis Rheum, 56(7):2278–87. doi: 10.1002/art.22739.

Ratini, M. (2012). Hyaluronan injections for knee osteoarthritis. Retrieved from: http://www.webmd.com/osteoarthritis/guide/hyaluronan-injections-knee

Zelman, D. (2012). Corticosteroid injections for osteoarthritis. Retrieved from: http://www.webmd.com/osteoarthritis/guide/corticosteroid-injections-for-osteoarthritis