Millions of people suffer from joint pain in the U.S., whether that pain is from a traumatic injury or a joint-related disease. In fact, statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show as many as 15 million American adults have joint pain due to arthritis alone. Research shows joint pain isn’t just about the physical symptoms. Many people with painful joints get less exercise and activity, which can wind up making their physical symptoms worse while also contributing to stress, anxiety, and even depression. As anxiety and depression increase, they can also exacerbate pain symptoms, creating a cycle that can be difficult to break without the right kind of intervention.
Physical therapy can be helpful in relieving some types of joint pain, but most people also rely on pain medication to control their symptoms and improve their mobility and activity levels. Regular doses of pain medication pose their own set of potential problems, including gastrointestinal distress, liver and kidney damage, and even long-term addiction.
As a leading physician in the greater Troy area, Lakshmi Palakurthi, MD, helps patients control their chronic joint pain with joint injections that are specially formulated to promote natural healing, so symptoms are reduced while functionality and mobility are improved — and all without relying on high doses of prescription pain medication.
How joint injections work
Joint injections work in two ways: First, the substances they deliver can help cushion the joint and improve the joint’s fluid mechanics so movement is less painful. And second, the injections create a type of “controlled damage” that works with those substances to help spur natural healing in the area. At her practice, Dr. Palakurthi uses both hyaluronic acid (HA) and platelet-rich plasma (PRP) to help relieve joint pain.
- Hyaluronic acid is a substance that occurs naturally in human tissues, including your joint tissues. HA helps your tissues retain moisture and it’s also attracted to moisture. As we get older, we tend to produce less hyaluronic acid, which means our joints don’t get the lubrication they need to function the way they’re supposed to. By administering HA joint injections, that natural joint fluid is augmented with a pure, synthetic version of HA that’s chemically identical to the HA produced by your body. Once injected, hyaluronic acid improves lubrication inside the joint and between the structures of the joint to reduce pain and improve mobility.
- Platelet-rich plasma is a substance that’s derived from a small sample of your own blood. Your blood is drawn right here in our office, then placed in a special device called a centrifuge. The centrifuge spins the blood very rapidly, separating the platelets and plasma from the other components of your blood. Then the platelets are mixed with the plasma and injected into your joint. PRP contains very high concentrations of platelets — much higher than the concentration you’d normally find in your blood. Platelets contain substances called growth factors that play a key role in healing. When injected into your joint, PRP and its growth factors go to work to stimulate that natural healing process, helping your joint tissues repair themselves over time.
Depending on your symptoms and other factors, Dr. Palakurthi uses injections of HA or PRP singly, or she may combine the two in a single treatment so you can get the benefits of both substances.
Finding relief for joint pain
After your injections, you might have some soreness in your joint as a result of the injections. That’s normal, and the discomfort will dissipate over the next day or so as the healing processes begin. For chronic joint pain problems like arthritis, pain relief can last from several weeks to several months, depending on the extent of the joint damage, your activity level, and other factors. One of the good things about joint injections is that they can be repeated on a regular basis to help prolong your results so you can enjoy more mobility, less discomfort, and a better quality of life. Joint injections can also be used to speed healing after a traumatic injury like a sports injury. In that case, you may not need to have the injections repeated after healing occurs.
If you're having joint pain, whether it's from a chronic condition like arthritis or from a traumatic injury, joint injections may be what you need to finally find long-term symptom relief. To learn more about joint injections or to schedule an evaluation, book an appointment online today.