A new Boston University School of Medicine study concludes that hip and knee corticosteroid injections may be harmful for certain patients with at-risk conditions and may cause complications that are poorly understood. Researchers identified increased arthritis and joint destruction as an unintended result of these injections.
Osteoarthritis Of The Hip and Knee
This is one of the most common types of arthritis we see in our clinic at Raleigh Acupuncture. The “go to” treatments in modern medicine for this pain are intra-articular corticosteroid injections, performed by your local orthopedic physician. They are the golden standard for patient care. Or are they? This new study indicates that there is conflicting evidence on their potential benefits.
Steroid Injections – The Study
Researchers followed up with patients who had received hip and knee injections in 2018 and found that eight percent had complications (10 percent in the hips and 4 percent in the knees).
They concluded, “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,”. They continued, “Intra-articular corticosteroid injection should be seriously discussed for pros and cons. Critical considerations about the complications should be part of the patient consent which is currently not the case right now.”
Follow Up Urgently Needed
Given that corticosteroid injections to the knees and hips are so commonly performed, the researchers suggested that more high-quality research should be conducted to look into their safety. They said it is important to better understand the risks and potential adverse joint events following treatment.
Safer Alternative Treatments Available
We always encourage our patients to try acupuncture first before getting steroid injections. This new research makes it even more important to start with the “less invasive” treatment, before ramping up. If a natural treatment can resolve pain, there is no need to undergo a stronger treatment that possibly has side effects.
Many patients over the years have told me that their doctor would only perform 3 injections, because any more would start to damage the underlying tissue in the body. That always struck me as puzzling. Why perform any therapy that can “damage” the body as it’s attempting to “heal” it?
If nothing else works to ease the pain of knee and hip osteoarthritis, then it probably makes sense to get the injections. But you should definitely try other things first. This new research may stir up a great deal of resentment in the modern medicine community. We will keep our eyes and ears open to track the fallout.
If you have osteoarthritis of the knee or hip, try acupuncture before getting steroid injections.
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Andrew J. Kompel, Frank W. Roemer, Akira M. Murakami, Luis E. Diaz, Michel D. Crema, Ali Guermazi. Intra-articular Corticosteroid Injections in the Hip and Knee: Perhaps Not as Safe as We Thought? Radiology, 2019; 190341 DOI: 10.1148/radiol.2019190341
Boston University School of Medicine. “New evidence that hip and knee steroid injections more dangerous than thought: May accelerate arthritis, joint destruction.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 October 2019.