Of all the joints in the human body, the knee joint is the largest, most complicated and most susceptible to injury. It is mobile and weight bearing, and its stability relies on connected ligaments and muscles. As part of the normal aging process, joints produce less fluid, cartilage thins out, and ligaments lose flexibility. Osteoarthritis is mostly an age-related condition that breaks down the cartilage that would normally function as a cushion to prevent bones from chafing. The result is painful, swollen and stiff joints. Some people feel relief after injections.
Medicare benefits for knee injections
For Medicare recipients, drugs typically fall under Part D, and Medicare recipients have the option of enrolling for prescription drug insurance when they become eligible for Medicare. However, knee injections are typically administered by a physician in a medical office or clinic. Therefore, look to Part B for Medicare benefits, which covers drugs that individuals would not normally give themselves. Medicare Part B benefits may apply to certain drugs obtained in a doctor’s office or hospital outpatient facility. Among the examples listed for drugs covered by Part B is injectable or infused drugs.
Treating knee damage
The Cleveland Clinic, a non-profit academic medical center in Ohio, provides information in their health library on four injections that may reduce inflammation and lessen joint pain.
Corticosteroid injections are described as the first line of defense. This steroid offers a reprieve from symptoms for two to three months. Of course, every drug carries risk, and the risk of corticosteroid is infection and an increase in blood sugar levels.
The second type of injection is hyaluronic acid (HA). This is a chemical modeled after the substance found naturally in the synovial fluid of the joints. Ideally, it would spur the knee to begin generating more natural hyaluronic acid. Side effects include inflammation.
Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections are intended to change the immune response by using the patient’s own blood and platelets. Infection and discomfort at the site of the infection are possible side effects.
Placental tissue matrix (PTX) injections are composed of placental tissue, which is comprised of a great many growth factors that promote healing. As in the PRP injections, there is a potential for infection and soreness at the injection site.
Preventive measures to avoid knee pain
Although the majority of seniors over 70 will experience joint pain, there are lifestyle changes that may help. Aerobics followed by stretching after exercise lessens the impact of aging because these activities support the flow of fluid around the joints and promote full range of motion. Also encouraged is losing excess weight that may be placing a strain on the knees. Your physician may suggest appropriate activities that may include walking, swimming, water aerobics, cycling on a stationary bike, elliptical equipment and tai chi.