In order for joints to move smoothly, they must contain an adequate amount of cartilage and synovial fluid, which acts as a lubricant and shock absorber. Osteoarthritis causes the cartilage to wear and synovial fluid to lose its properties causing painful rubbing of the bones in the joints. Viscosupplementation is a procedure where a gel-like substance called hyaluronic acid, which is a component of synovial fluid, is injected into the joints to increase its lubricating and shock absorbing properties.
It is usually performed after other non-surgical treatments for osteoarthritis such as medications, physical therapy and steroid injections have failed. Although it does not cure osteoarthritis, it can relieve pain, improve mobility and delay the need for surgery.
Viscosupplementation first involves the removal of any excess joint fluid with a syringe. The joint is then injected with hyaluronic acid, which may be repeated weekly for several weeks.
Immediately following the injection, you may experience pain, swelling and warmth, which can be eased by ice applications. Avoid weight-bearing or strenuous activity involving the joint for the next 48 hours. The pain and swelling from osteoarthritis is gradually relieved with effects lasting for several months.
Complications are rare but occasionally an allergic reaction may develop, intensifying symptoms.