Joint injections can be an effective way of treating some disorders of joints and ligaments that are caused by inflammation such as osteoarthritis, inflammatory arthritis (eg: gout), and shoulder or hip bursitis.
Various injectable medications can be used depending on the exact circumstances. The most common medication used is cortisone which will relieve the pain, swelling and stiffness by its direct anti-inflammatory effects within only a couple of days. However, pain relief from cortisone also diminishes rapidly within a month or so. Furthermore, overuse of cortisone injections can have a catabolic effect – that is, it could cause the cartilage and connective tissue to break down and deteriorate further.
More recently hyaluronic acid injections (called viscosupplements) have been used in the treatment of knee osteoarthritis. A recent review of the medical literature shows an average reduction in pain of 28-54% when using this particular type of injection. In contrast to cortisone, it takes about five weeks, on average, before a patient experiences the full benefits of hyaluronic acid. Whilst in some patients this benefit can last up to two years, in others there may be little or no benefit. The medication is NOT PBS subsidized currently.
It should be noted that in November 2013 the Australian Federal Government withdrew funding for joint injections unless done under ultrasound control (increasing the cost by > $130).