Are knee injections a possible treatment for osteoarthritis?

Some people resort to corticosteroid injections for treating osteoarthritis of the knee. Typically, this form of treatment is considered after other, less invasive treatments are not effective. It is advisable to consult your doctor about less invasive treatments first, such as non-drug pain relief, over-the-counter medication and alternative treatments. In any event, corticosteroid injections for osteoarthritis of the knee may be appropriate if your knee pain greatly impacts your daily functioning. Corticosteroid injections are fairly common for osteoarthritis of the knee [source: Arroll and Goodyear-Smith].

Corticosteroids are anti-inflammatory hormones, which the body produces naturally. Corticosteroids are injected directly into the infected joint. Keep in mind, knee injections are not a cure-all and the benefits are typically short-lived. Some experts in the field suggest that long-term knee injections actually cause joint destruction and atrophy of the knee. Other experts argue that joint destruction is primarily the result of osteoarthritis and not corticosteroid injections [source: Arroll and Goodyear-Smith]. It's best to ask your doctor about the amount and duration of corticosteroid treatment that is appropriate for you based on your specific needs.


The short-term benefits of corticosteroids are well documented in scientific literature [source: Bellamy et al]. You will likely experience relief from your osteoarthritis symptoms for about two weeks following corticosteroid injections. Some research studies also demonstrate more long-term symptom improvement -- between 16 and 24 weeks [source: Arroll and Goodyear-Smith]. Most doctors do not recommend more than two to four treatments per year [source: NIAMS]. The American College of Rheumatologists recommends a corticosteroid dose of 40 milligrams per treatment, although doses do vary from one doctor to another [source: Arrolll and Goodyear-Smith].