An x-ray visualization of someone who needs knee injections for pain, as they're holding their knee in pain.

Do Knee Injections for Pain Really Work?

We can expect joint pain to increase as we age, whether through competitive sports or just aging — which is why knee injections for pain remain such a hot topic these days. It’s time to look for an alternative to over-the-counter pain relievers when joint pain interferes with your life.

However, another option is searching for the best non-surgical treatment for knee pain.


What are Knee Injections for Pain?

You can receive knee injections for pain directly into your joints or ligaments and tendons surrounding them. Inflammation can be reduced, pain can be managed, and supporting structures may be healed by these treatments.

Rather than being viewed as a standalone best treatment for knee joint pain, injections should be considered a means to an end. In order to achieve results, you must also do physical or occupational therapy.

It doesn’t matter if you have pain in one joint due to an injury or just wear-and-tear, or if you have osteoarthritis in multiple joints. You can receive injections for joints throughout your body, including your knees, hips, shoulders, ankles, sacroiliac joints, and facet joints. The economic burden of osteoarthritis in U.S. adults is estimated at $188 billion, with 27 million adults suffering from it in at least one joint.


When Injections are the Best Option

You should begin knee injections for pain by getting adequate rest, exercising regularly, and eating well. A pain management specialist or doctor will consider injections if every attempt has been made to maximize your health through other avenues and you are still experiencing pain.

Joint injections should be discussed with your doctor in an honest and thoughtful manner. The cost of this treatment is usually not covered by insurance. Due to the fact that some of these injections are still experimental and not FDA-approved, insurance coverage may not be available. You should talk to your doctor about your options before paying out of pocket.

Are you exploring other options, especially those covered by insurance? Do you think surgery would be better for you? In terms of recovery, what are your expectations? All of these questions are relevant when you’re searching for the best non-surgical treatment for knee pain.


Five Types and What You Should Know

The type of knee injections for pain your doctor recommends will depend on your needs. Corticosteroids and autologous cells are among the injectables available.


An injection of cortisone

As a first-line treatment, you will probably receive a cortisone shot or steroid injection — which happens to be the best way to relieve knee pain for so many patients out there. Inflammation and pain are quickly reduced by cortisone shots in many patients, but they do come with some precautions. You may experience side effects from steroids throughout your body over time, due to their toxic effects on cartilage in your joints. They might be useful for quick fixes. Another plan needs to be developed on a long-term, repeated basis. It is common for insurance companies to cover cortisone shots. Depending on the severity of the injury, relief may last for a long time. You will only feel the effects of steroids for about three months if you have chronic, long-term pain.


Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections and cell therapy

Injections of PRP involve taking your blood, isolating and concentrating the platelets, and injecting billions of platelets into your joint, ligament, or tendon. Cell therapies are injectables that use your own cells and tissues, such as bone marrow or fat. Your joint, ligament, or tendon is carefully injected with the cells after they have been collected, cleansed, and injected. In many patients, cell therapies have reduced chronic inflammation, and research suggests that they may stimulate a healing response over time.


Injections of knee gel

The fluid inside your joints is made up of hyaluronic acid, a thick substance similar to hyaluronic acid in gel injections. Gel injections may be covered by some insurance plans, but only in the knee (or sometimes in the shoulder). If you have mild to moderate arthritis, knee gel injections work well for most knee pain. There is usually a six-to-twelve-month period of effect. Gel injections are often used if you have tried other treatments like medication, exercise, or steroid injections without success — and still remains a best treatment for knee joint pain for many.


Getting a prolotherapy injection

The aim of prolotherapy injections is to relieve joint, ligament, and tendon pain using concentrated sugar water (dextrose). The injections may reduce the pain associated with osteoarthritis and chronic injuries of the tendons and ligaments, such as ankle sprains. They are rarely covered by insurance. Especially for knee arthritis and tennis elbow, prolotherapy has some strong research evidence.


A newer category of injectables

orthobiologics is made from your own blood or tissue. Orthobiologics has not been proven to restore missing tissue, and such products are not FDA-approved for treating arthritis or other joint disorders, but some studies suggest that it may promote healing in tissue. This treatment targets arthritic joints and chronic tendon problems pretty much anywhere on your body, and is not usually covered by insurance.

You may have arthritis in your ankles, hips, knees, shoulders, elbows, and wrists. It does not matter if it’s a tennis elbow, a hamstring injury, an Achilles injury, or tendinopathy of your hip — pain management specialists are able to handle it all. Especially in cases of sacroiliac (SI) joint pain, orthobiologic injections can be helpful. Spinal intervertebral joints connect your pelvis with your lower spine. A sprained SI joint ligament can be very responsive to regenerative injection treatment, as the ligaments that link over your bones can easily be sprained.


Knee Injections for Pain and The Cortisone Experience

It’s rare to experience an allergic reaction when you receive knee injections for pain. However, as with any treatment, there can be side effects, such as flushing and headaches with cortisone injections. Injection sites can also develop fat necrosis (divots in the skin) and hypopigmentation (pale skin).

Blood sugar levels can also temporarily rise. This usually lasts for a week or so.

The experts are careful about how often they inject because repeated injections can injure tendons. It is recommended to space them out over a period of three months. Pain management specialists and doctors usually won’t inject more than three times around a tendon.

Infection is another possible risk. The skin should be clean before you give the injection, and you should use a good sterile technique. A surgical site infection is more likely to occur if you have surgery on that area too soon after an injection, since the steroid suppresses the immune system. An injection of cortisone into a joint within two months of surgery is not recommended by most total joint surgeons.


The Cortisone Experience

There are fewer risks associated with cortisone injections than with oral steroids. The latter can increase weight, cause osteoporosis, and cause diabetes if used long term. Weight gain is not caused by cortisone injections, which do not cause systemic problems.

Since injections are usually the best non-surgical treatment for knee pain for many patients, it’s possible to receive them every month, depending on the condition being treated and the location where they are administered. It may be recommended that you only receive a few injections within one year if you have other conditions.

Athletic trainers and orthopaedic sports specialists should always be consulted before injecting professional athletes during their season. Yet, the need for constant injections may not be necessary for weekend warriors, knitters, or pianists. Your best way to relieve knee pain all depends on what your pain management specialist or doctor says.


Takeaways and Practices to Remember

Generally, the difference between these types of knee injections for pain is their duration. With a steroid, you’ll feel better in a month. Patients who receive platelet-rich plasma or prolotherapy may find they feel better for months or years afterward.

It is important to trust your doctor when it comes to joint injections, since false advertising and hype are prevalent. For your specific diagnosis, ask your doctor how long you might experience pain relief. Make sure you ask your doctor or clinic about their safety protocols before receiving the best non-surgical treatment for knee pain.

Last but not least, make sure you’re a true participant, both before and after the injection. Prepare yourself physically and mentally. Your procedure and rehab should be as effective as possible if you’re investing in yourself properly.


Wellness and Pain Can Help

A range of options for knee injections for pain are available at Wellness and Pain. We offer conservative treatments, routine visits, and minimally invasive quick-recovery procedures. We can keep you free of problems by providing lifestyle education and home care advice to help you avoid and manage issues, quickly relieving the inhibiting lifestyle conditions when complications arise.

At Wellness and Pain, we personalize patient care plans based on each patient’s condition and unique circumstances to relieve pain, improve mobility and mental space, and improve your overall health.


Covered by Most Insurances and Most Unions

Wellness and Pain accepts most major insurance plans. Here is a list of some of the major insurance plans we accept. If you do not see your insurance plan listed, please call our office to confirm.

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