Hyaluronic acid--a drug derived from the fat of chicken combs--is a new and successful treatment being used on degenerating knee joints. Knees are one of the trickiest and most problematic joints in the body. The way they are built lends them to stress and injury. The knee cap essentially floats, surrounded by fluid, and supported by a ring of muscle, ligaments and tendons. With all the squatting, twisting, bending and jumping we do in a lifetime, those joints take on a tremendous amount of stress. It is not uncommon for a person to have a knee injury during their lives, and most people will have developed arthritis in their knees once they reach middle age. This article will give you some ideas on how hyaluronic acid is used to treat knee conditions.
The function of hyaluronic acid is simple--to lubricate the joint. In patients where arthritis, injury or trauma has caused the knee to malfunction, and in most cases it is where bone is painfully rubbing on bone, an injection of hyaluronic acid into the joint is roughly the equivalent of having super synthetic oil put into an old engine. The pieces will run smoothly again, for a little while, and then new lubricant must be added, as the acid is eventually absorbed into the body. Since it is a bio-agent, it does not cause the body an harm, but it does "go away" and needs to be replaced.
Before hyaluronic acid is tried, there should be other treatments. First, a professional evaluation, including MRI scans of the knee should be done to verify exactly what the problem is. In some cases, the hyaluronic acid will not help, in others, it is not yet necessary, so it is important to be evaluated by an orthopedic specialist before making any decision about receiving these injections. Under no circumstances should you be treated by a personal trainer or anyone other than a medical professional. Hyaluronic acid is available for animals, but use of these medicines on humans can have dire consequences, so don't risk it.
If other treatments such as corticosteroids and physical therapy have been unsuccessful, and your doctor has approved you for the use of hyaluronic acid, you will be scheduled for a series of injections. The usual schedule is one injection a week for five weeks. The injection is given directly into the joint, and is quite unpleasant, so be prepared for the pain. Weight bearing and activity must be avoided for at least 24 to 36 hours after each injection. The typical relief period is about six months, some longer, some shorter. The cost of the injections is significant, and patients must be prepared for this going into treatment.
A common misconception about hyaluronic acid is that it is a cure. There is no cure for osteoarthritis or degenerative bone disease. The only way to avoid it is to prevent it. This can be done by maintaining a proper weight, eating to support good bone strength, and by exercising regularly yet without undue stress to the joints. As you can see, this is tricky, and a vast majority of people do not do all these things, so most people develop arthritis. If you have developed the need for hyaluronic acid injections for degenerative knees, it is important not to spend time feeling guilty, but to get on with your life and do what you can to prevent a hastier degeneration. Lose the weight, eat better and maintain a physical therapy regime for your knees.
The significance of these treatment is huge. Patients who previously had exhausted all other avenues of pain relief and were facing surgery now have one more option available to them to delay impending knee surgery. Once a knee has undergone surgery, it is prone to more of them, so putting off the knife in most cases is the way to go. By using hyaluronic acid injections, a patient often can get several more years out of their existing joint, before any cutting or replacing is necessary. Even better, it improves the quality of life of the patient, providing pain relief and a more normal lifestyle.
- Photo Credit Courtesy of Rebecca Boardman.
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