/ by Austin V. Stone, MD, PhD
Knee osteoarthritis is a painful condition that can leave you benched from your favorite sports and hobbies. Although end-stage osteoarthritis is often treated with a total joint replacement, the treatment options for early to moderate arthritis have been limited until recently.
Here are three non-surgical ways that knee osteoarthritis can be treated, including an exciting new technique:
Long-standing treatment options include the use of cortisone injections for early arthritis. This is a safe and moderately effective treatment strategy; however, the number of cortisone injections that can be administered in a year is limited. Repeat cortisone injections in a short amount of time can actually harm your cartilage.
When cortisone injections are not effective or symptom relief is less than three to four months, you may consider hyaluronic acid injections. These injections, commonly called “gel” injections, may offer a lubricant-like effect and can reduce inflammation. Gel injections often require insurance pre-authorization and should be discussed with your physician.
An innovative option
A new non-surgical treatment option for knee osteoarthritis is the use of platelet-rich plasma, also known as PRP. PRP falls under the category of ortho-biologics because PRP comes from your own blood. The blood is processed through a machine to concentrate the platelets, which contain growth factors, and then this concentrated platelet mixture is injected into the knee.
The growth factors and chemicals contained in platelets are thought to improve pain in knee osteoarthritis by reducing the inflammatory response in the knee. Because PRP contains growth factors and chemicals from the your own blood, it is more precise and effective than cortisone alone. PRP does not regrow cartilage but offers significant pain relief and is reported to be more effective than only hyaluronic.
Recent studies also suggest that PRP given in conjunction with hyaluronic acid can give you longer and better pain relief.
Not all PRP preparations are the same either. Because everyone's arthritis is different, your doctor will tailor the PRP treatment that's best for you. You should discuss with a knowledgeable physician about whether or not PRP may be right for you. PRP injections are not currently covered by insurance policies and will require an out-of-pocket expense.