Nearly a quarter of adult Americans, around 58.5 million individuals, are afflicted with the discomfort of arthritis. The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis, characterized by a breakdown of cartilage that worsens over time. According to the Cleveland Clinic, somewhere around 80% of adults over the age of 55 show some evidence of osteoarthritis on x-ray, even if they haven’t developed symptoms yet. Other well-known types of arthritis include rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and lupus.
While anti-inflammatory pain relievers can often control the pain of arthritis in its early stages, it isn’t always an effective treatment as the disease progresses. Regular moderate to vigorous exercise builds up the muscles around the joints, improves balance, and is an essential part of the treatment plan for those afflicted with arthritis. Some patients also turn to additional medications, including certain antidepressants such as duloxetine or anti-seizure medications like pregabalin. For others, the pain can only be relieved by pain-relieving injections or by surgery.
Multiple injection options can ease the pain caused by arthritic joints. In addition to rooster comb injections, shots of corticosteroids or platelet-rich plasma may also reduce both inflammation and chronic joint pain.
Corticosteroids – Corticosteroids are the most commonly injected treatment, especially during the later stages of arthritis. These can include medications such as cortisone, prednisone, and hydrocortisone and can be either injected or ingested. Corticosteroid shots frequently mitigate the pain for a long time, sometimes up to several months, but recurring injections can lead to increased cartilage loss.
Platelet-rich Plasma – PRP injections are a newer option that injects concentrated platelets from the patient’s own blood into the joints. This option can be as effective as cortisone injections for easing the earlier stages of arthritis, sometimes even more effective.
Prolotherapy – This treatment method involves injecting an irritant, usually a sugar solution, into the joint’s interior. Prolotherapy is intended to trigger the growth of the connective tissue within the joint, reducing pain and improving function.
Stem Cell Injections – Stem cells can be injected directly into the arthritic joint, which helps rebuild the cartilage in the joint. Stem cell injections are most effective with mild to moderate arthritis with relatively little damage to the cartilage.
Despite the ridiculous-sounding name, rooster comb injections, also known as hyaluronic acid injections or viscosupplementation, are incredibly effective in reducing inflammation. Rooster combs, the red, fleshy flap of skin that crowns most roosters and some hens, contain a high concentration of hyaluronic acid. Physicians in the 1940s discovered techniques for extracting and purifying the hyaluronic acid from rooster combs. By the 1970s and 80s, it was being used to ease joint pain in the knees of racehorses.
The first rooster comb injection to treat arthritis in humans was approved in the late 1990s. Since then, a half dozen equally effective hyaluronic acid treatments have been approved by the FDA. Rooster comb injections not only reduce pain and inflammation but can also improve the overall motion in the joint. While these injections are like other arthritis shots in many ways, there are some significant differences.
Like corticosteroid shots, rooster comb injections are meant to mitigate the symptoms of arthritis, not to cure the disorder. Neither option reverses arthritis nor regrows cartilage. Both postpone the progression of the disease, delaying or preventing the need for surgery. Both do this by reducing inflammation and blocking pain receptors, but the hyaluronic acid from rooster comb shots also makes the surfaces of the joints smoother.
Corticosteroid shots, administered as a single shot, are often effective within just a few days. Relief typically lasts just a few months, though these injections can occasionally provide relief for as long as a year. Rooster comb injections require multiple injections and can take several weeks to take effect. Rooster comb injections also last longer than the average corticosteroid shots, usually around six months.
Although rooster comb injections are highly effective, the relief is temporary. Like treatment with plasma-rich platelets, hyaluronic acid is most effective during the early stages of arthritis. Rooster comb injections have very few side effects compared to other injectable treatments. Other treatments may result in injuries to the nerves, infection, and tissue damage. Treatment with hyaluronic acid typically only results in itchiness, warmth, and pain around the injection site, with a slightly increased chance of nausea and muscle pain.
For those experiencing early pain due to arthritis, viscosupplementation can help to not only temporarily relieve the symptoms of the disorder, but it can also help to delay further damage. This technique is both effective and long-lasting, but it takes more time to start working than many other solutions. Those experiencing chronic or severe pain, particularly in larger joints like the knees, should talk to their doctor to determine if rooster comb injections are the right option for you.