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Hyaluronic Acid vs Steroid Injections in Knee Pain: All You Need to Know

Hyaluronic acid (HA) injections and steroid injections are both commonly used to treat knee pain caused by arthritis, but they work in different ways and have different benefits and drawbacks. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, characterized by the degeneration of the joint cartilage, leading to pain, stiffness, and limited mobility.



What is HA, how does it work and why is it effective?

HA injections are a treatment option that aim to supplement the natural lubricating and cushioning function of the joint fluid. The injections contain a viscous, clear, and colorless solution that is similar to the synovial fluid of the joint. The injections are given directly into the joint, typically as a series of three to five injections, although some newer HA injections are given as a one shot. The duration of action of HA injections can vary, but they are thought to provide relief for six months to a year, and in some cases, the effects may last longer.

The main benefit of HA injections is that it is a more targeted approach to treating knee pain caused by osteoarthritis. The injections help to restore the normal joint function and reduce pain by supplementing the natural lubricating and cushioning function of the joint fluid. In contrast, steroid injections are a form of anti-inflammatory medication that can help to reduce inflammation in the joint, but they may also have several unwanted side effects.


Comparing the safety and efficacy profiles of HA and Steroids

One of the main drawbacks of steroid injections is that they can have a number of side effects, including an increased risk of infection, thinning of the skin and easy bruising.

In contrast, HA injections have very few side effects and are well tolerated. The most common side effects of HA injections are mild discomfort or some swelling at the injection site, and there is a small risk of developing an allergic reaction to the injection. Additionally, HA injections may provide longer-lasting relief compared to steroid injections, as they help to restore the normal joint function, while steroid injections only provide temporary relief by reducing inflammation.


The Right Injection for The Right Patient

It is also important to note that HA injections may be more effective for certain types of knee pain, particularly in people with moderate to severe osteoarthritis. On the other hand, steroid injections may be more effective for treating knee pain caused by inflammation such as in cases of rheumatoid arthritis.

Certain groups of people may not be suitable candidates for steroid injections due to underlying health conditions or other factors. For example, people with diabetes or a history of gastrointestinal ulcers may be at a higher risk of developing side effects from steroid injections. In these cases, HA injections may be a safer and more appropriate treatment option.


Both HA injections and steroid injections can be effective at reducing knee pain caused by osteoarthritis, but they have different mechanisms of action and have different benefits and drawbacks. HA injections are more targeted in their approach, have fewer side effects, provide longer-lasting relief, and may be more effective for certain types of knee pain. However, steroid injections may be more effective for treating knee pain caused by inflammation and may be a better option for certain people or health conditions like patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis or Osteoarthritis with frequent flare ups of pain. It is important to discuss the pros and cons of both treatments with a doctor to determine the best course of treatment for your individual needs.



We can help you with your knee pain

At ACTIVATE Musculoskeletal Clinic in Kent, we specialise in providing the a comprehensive range of non-surgical treatments for knee pain, including both HA and steroid injections. No GP referral is needed to visit our clinic, and our treatments are affordable. Our clinic offers a one-stop service, ensuring that you receive the most comprehensive and effective treatment for your knee pain. Whether you are experiencing knee pain and stiffness, decreased range of motion, or decreased ability to walk or perform daily activities, we will work closely with you to create an individualised treatment plan tailored to your specific needs and goals.

Do not let knee pain hold you back any longer. Contact ACTIVATE Musculoskeletal Clinic today or schedule an appointment online and take the first step towards regaining your mobility and quality of life


About the Author: Dr. Mustafa Alnaib MBChB, MRCS, MSc, FEBOT is an orthopaedic surgeon, musculoskeletal doctor and Clinic Director at ACTIVATE Musculoskeletal Clinic in Kent.

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