Question: I suffer from arthritis and have had shots for treating the pain, but sometimes the shots are not as effective. Is there anything I can do?
Answer: Arthritis affects more than 50 million people in the U.S., so you are not alone. Arthritis is more common in people who are older than 55 years of age, are overweight, have injured a joint or have a family history of arthritis, but anyone can have arthritis.
Some people can be treated by taking medications orally, while others need injections of medication into the joints. Typically, arthritis injections put steroids into the joint, which decreases the inflammation and helps reduce the activity of the immune system.
Recently, the practice of using ultrasound to help guide the injections has helped patients with arthritis. Ultrasound-guided injections help provide better placement of the medication because the ultrasound uses high frequency sound waves, without exposure to potentially harmful radiation, to look at the structure of the joint. That allows the medical provider to place the medication precisely where it is needed.
Patients suffering from the pain of osteoarthritis and inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and gout might be candidates for ultrasound-guided injections to relieve their pain.
Injections can be added to a treatment program that could also include anti-inflammatory pain medications, physical therapy, occupational therapy, or supportive devices such as canes and braces. Whether one or more of these treatment methods are used depends on the nature of the problem.
Injections should not be used when there is infection in the area to be targeted or elsewhere in the body, because they could inhibit the natural infection-fighting immune response. If a joint is too severely destroyed, injections might not provide any benefit.
Vera Bocoun, M.D., is a rheumatologist at Marshfield Clinic Wausau Center. This column provides health information and is not intended to be medical advice or a substitute for care from your health care provider.