Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis and affects over 30 million people in the U.S. alone. While there is no cure for OA, there are several treatment and therapy options out there that can help you manage your OA.
Viscosupplementation is a relatively new treatment that involves injections of hyaluronic acid into your knee joints. This substance can help to lubricate the joints and absorb shock, which may help to relieve pain.
The treatment has proved to be effective among some people with mild to moderate OA. Read on to learn about their stories.
Viscosupplements help me compete again
Ernest Troth, president of a business consulting firm, leads a very active life. He competes in 5K races on the weekend, trains for triathlons, and runs for both his health and his competitive nature. About a year ago, however, pain in his left knee began slowing him down. The lifelong athlete found himself sidelined and unable to be as active as he wanted to be.
“The pain made it almost impossible to run,” he says. He scheduled an appointment with a local sports medicine practice, and his doctor diagnosed his painful condition as OA. As soon as he got the diagnosis he began eating a diet of anti-inflammatory foods. He took supplements regularly and he tried over the counter pain relievers, like NSAIDs and acetaminophen. He even tried changing the surfaces he ran on to see if he could reduce the pain he experienced each time he laced up his running shoes.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough. The cartilage deterioration in his left knee was advanced and Ernest continued having difficulty with running and walking. His doctor suggested he consider viscosupplements as a way to increase his mobility and decrease pain.
“I had three injections over three weeks and the treatments were nothing short of miraculous,” he says. Before long, Ernest was back to his regular running pace, training for future races, and not being held back by the pain that plagued him just a few weeks before. The effects of the viscosupplement injections were almost immediate for Ernest.
He says, “I completed the second round of a three-round injection series last week, and this weekend, I ran another 5K. I was in some pain, so I used a mix of walking and running, but these injections have allowed me to maintain the lifestyle that I love.”
Would he recommend it to other patients struggling with the painful effects of advancing OA? “Yes, the pain relief and function that return are second to none.”
The role genes play
Kenny Martin was aware since his high school days that he might one day face knee troubles. His mother had both knee joints replaced twice during her lifetime. “At 18, I saw an orthopedic surgeon who told me to exercise in order to prevent problems. I lift weights with my legs, walk, run, and bike regularly. I did everything I could to take care of my legs,” Kenny says.
But his efforts to prevent seeing his mother’s joint problems in his own knees were not as successful has he had hoped, and eventually his genetic predisposition won. Two years ago, his doctor told him he might need knee replacement surgery because the joint damage in his right knee was extensive.
Kenny went for a second opinion. Yes, the OA was progressed in his right knee, but a sports medicine doctor suggested another treatment option—viscosupplementation.
“He told me this was a new treatment option, a type of lubricant that could help the joint function better,” Kenny recalls. Kenny, a security and safety consultant, admits he was skeptical, but he gave it a shot. After a series of three injections over three weeks, Kenny says his knee felt “magnificent.”
He’s since had several other rounds of viscosupplementation, and even though the injections are only supposed to last for six months at most, Kenny seems to be having more success at waiting longer periods of time between his treatments. “I’m going on nine months now and don’t feel much discomfort at all. I’ll wait for the pain to return before I do my next set of injections.”
Kenny says he may eventually need to revisit the idea of a total knee replacement, though he’s “not a cut-cut-cut kind of person.” Still, he knows that in the future, these injections may not work, but for now he says, “they have really nipped my osteoarthritis in the bud.”