Ultrasound Guided Injections Could Improve Your Joint Pain

Joint pain. Millions of Americans each and every year suffer from the chronic pain of osteoarthritis. As we grow older we might notice our joints starting to click and clack as we stand up. Often this is just a normal part of aging but for many, it’s the beginning of a long battle with the pain of osteoarthritis. In fact, 1 in 10 Americans over the age of 60 have osteoarthritis (also known as wear and tear arthritis). Joint injections have long been a part of the management of the condition but now more and more clinics are offering ultrasound guided injections. Could this new technique improve the efficacy of the injections?


What is osteoarthritis?


Osteoarthritis, also known as wear and tear arthritis, is a degenerative disease of the joints. It often occurs in the hip and knees (but can occur anywhere). Normally in a healthy joint, there is a layer of cartilage which absorbs shocks and stops the bones bumping up against one another. In osteoarthritis, this cartilage wears down causing bone on bone contact and severe pain


What treatments are available?


Your family practitioner may be familiar with treating the disease as it is so common in Americans. They will usually offer the following:


  • Painkillers like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or opioids. These are often the first line and may stop working after a while, meaning more and more needs to be taken to get the same effect.
  • Injections that may or may not be ultrasound guided (many non-specialists are trained in injecting the joint without ultrasound). They usually inject a mix of steroid and local anesthetic. The local anesthetic will give you pain relief temporarily while the steroid takes it longer to kick in (the steroid reduces inflammation and therefore reduces pain signals headed up to the brain). Injections can be great as they work for a number of weeks or months (unlike painkiller which works for a matter of hours).
  • In some severe cases, a replacement operation may be offered. This usually involves a stay in a hospital and whilst often successful isn’t without its risks.


Why can ultrasound injections help?


The idea behind ultrasound guided injections is that a specialist can know exactly where they are injecting the material. Doctors in the past have relied on feel and touch alone to guesstimate their injection into the correct spot. Ultrasound-guided injections remove this inaccuracy. This ultrasonography procedure is done by a trained specialist and means that the steroid and a local anesthetic is injected into exactly the correct spot. In theory, this improved the efficacy and pain relief from the injection.


If you or somebody you know is suffering from joint pain that isn’t being properly controlled by a general practitioner, get in contact with a specialist in pain management. These experts have many tools such as ultrasound-guided injection to fine tune your pain control.