Joint injections are a minimally invasive treatment for relieving pain caused by inflammatory joint conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, tendonitis, bursitis and gout. To reduce pain and inflammation from these conditions, medications such as corticosteroids and hyaluronic-acid preparations are sometimes injected into the problem joint. The medications affect only the targeted areas, and usually do not cause side effects. Joint injections are administered under local anesthesia, and cause only brief, mild discomfort.
To ensure precise administration of, and effective results from, joint injections, they are often performed under ultrasound guidance. Ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to produce real-time images of the internal structures of the body; no radiation is involved and there are no side effects. As with traditional injections, ultrasound-guided injections are made with standard needles and syringes. The difference is that, during ultrasound, a probe attached to a monitor is placed against the skin in the target area; this gives the physician an internal view of the joint to be injected. The physician watches the monitor as she or he places the needle into the joint, ensuring precise placement.
Joint injections can be used to relieve pain in the following areas:
Unless they have joint infections or allergies to the medications used, most people are candidates for ultrasound-guided joint injections, which generally take between 15 and 30 minutes to perform.