Rheumatology Treatments: Are Joint Injections Right For You?

People who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis in advanced stages do have treatment options available. Living with unbearable pain should not be a part of daily life. One treatment option is to inject the joints with corticosteroids. However, many people wonder if this is a long term solution or if there are negative side effects of the treatment. Learning about joint injections can help you make a knowledgeable decision regarding your personal medical care.

Corticosteroids are an anti inflammatory 

The main purpose of using corticosteroids with patients who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis is to slow down the accumulation of cells that cause inflammation of the joints. The injections provide almost immediate relief for some patients, which can be long or short term depending on the severity of RA and how the individual body reacts. Hyaluronic acid is a lubricant that is sometimes injected into joints for some types of arthritis, like osteoarthritis. 

Pain associated with injections

Every person has a different tolerance level in regard to pain. For many RA patients, the pain of the disease is worse than the pain of having joint injections. Normally an arthritis specialist will numb the area that is going to be injected. Many people describe the numbing as a pinch or bee sting sensation. However, it is important to speak openly with your doctor if you feel afraid, or the pain of injection is too great for you personally. There are other treatment options available.

Areas of the body that can be injected

The areas of the body that can be injected for rheumatology treatment are numerous and include areas such as:

  • The knee and ankle, as well as small joints of the feet
  • The hands and wrist, as well as small joints of the hand and base of the thumb
  • The hip which may be injected with the aid of an ultrasound machine

The side effects of corticosteroids

As with any drug, many RA patients worry about the side effects of injections. Most corticosteroid injections do not cause side effects other than slight swelling at the injection site or soreness for a couple of days following treatment. Some patients do not report any negative side effects following injection. It is possible to have an allergic reaction or an infection can occur, but this is rare. 

How much relief to expect

Relief gained from joint injections is noticeable for most RA patients and lasts for a period of approximately 6 months. Corticosteroids resemble a natural hormone that is produced in the body called cortisol, which is one reason they are thought to work effectively. For maximum relief of RA symptoms, many patients use combination therapies such as joint injection along with exercise. 

Only you can decide if joint injections are right for you. An arthritis specialist (at Arthritis & Rheumatology Associates of South Jersey or another clinic) can give detailed information about all rheumatoid arthritis treatments currently available.