Study Warns Common Pain Injection May Speed Up Joint Deterioration

A very common injection intended to treat pain caused by osteoarthritis may put the patient at risk of accelerated 'joint destruction,' according to a new study. The work comes from the Boston University School of Medicine, where researchers looked into common corticosteroid injections used for hip and knee joint pain. Among other things, these injections may speed up the progression of arthritis.

Osteoarthritis is a painful degenerative joint disease that causes the cartilage in joints to wear down, eventually reducing the gap between bones and causing pain. Corticosteroid injections are a common method for reducing the inflammation in the knees and hip joints of osteoarthritis patients — by reducing inflammation, the injections are able to offer temporary pain relief.

Corticosteroid injections are largely believed to be safe, but the newly published study has warned that may not be the case. Some patients may experience 'accelerated arthritis and joint destruction' as a result of these injections. Complications associated with the treatment were found to be slightly more common in hip, rather than knee, injections.

The findings were based on a study of patients who had received these injections in 2018. Of them, 4-percent were found to have complications related to the knee joints and 10-percent had complications related to the hips. In total, 8-percent of the patients experienced issued caused by getting the injections.

The study's corresponding author Ali Guermazi, MD, PhD, said:

We are now seeing these injections can be very harmful to the joints with serious complications such as osteonecrosis, subchondral insufficiency fracture and rapid progressive osteoarthritis. Intra-articular corticosteroid injection should be seriously discussed for pros and cons.