Hyaluronic Acid – What Is It, and How Do We Use It to Treat Knee Pain and Other Conditions?
Hi. Dr. Tim Steflik with Coastal Integrative Healthcare.
Let’s talk about some information about hyaluronic acid – what it is and how we use it to treat conditions like knee pain.
Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring substance in our body. Our body makes it naturally. It’s found in our skin, our eyes – pretty much everywhere in our body. It helps lubricate certain areas. Your skin, for example, will look younger and healthier if you have a lot of hyaluronic acid. An area that’s important to us, and to a lot of our patients, is the joints. Hyaluronic is naturally occurring in your joints. But the problem is that when you get arthritis and as the arthritis progresses – because arthritis is a progressive condition – your body produces less of it.
As you produce less of it, the joints become stiff and achy, and the arthritis will progress at a faster and faster rate.
When this happens, and you don’t have as much hyaluronic acid, you want to put more in there in different forms.
Some patients try to do this is an oral supplement. It’s a good option but, unfortunately, it’s going to go to your entire body and it’s not going to target a specific joint. So another way we can put it in is through an injection. There are several different brands of hyaluronic acid including Supartz, Hyalgan, Synvisc, and more, but on a less formal basis, many people call them rooster comb injections. It’s called that because the rooster comb contains a lot of hyaluronic acid. It’s produced naturally in the roosters, as it is with humans.
One good thing about these injections is that they’re covered by most insurances, including Medicare. That’s one of the reasons we like to do them in the office – there’s very little patient expense. Typically, an injection is done once a week for three to five weeks and the patient will feel progressive improvement as they get them. We usually combine those injections with other types of therapies – maybe a knee brace, some physical therapy, cold laser, adjustments, and other things that can be done to help rehabilitate the knees.
Hyaluronic acid is a great option for those who want to feel better as soon as possible. There are very few side effects, it’s covered by insurance, and patients get good results. I’d say about 80 to 85% of our patients feel better after the injections.
The biggest downside to hyaluronic acid it is that it’s not actually correcting the cause of the problem. Also, at this time, insurance only covers injections in the knees. We can inject it into other areas of the body, but it’s not covered by insurance for a shoulder injection or a different area of the body.