Are Ultrasound-Guided Injections for Arthritis More Effective?


Arthritis pain can be downright debilitating. In the search for treatment options, you may have heard about ultrasound-guided injections and wondered what makes them different. Does ultrasound guidance matter? Does it make the injection more effective? What are the benefits?

What are ultrasound-guided injections?

Ultrasound-guided injections are joint injections (either cortisone shots or gel injections) administered during an ultrasound scan, enabling direct visualization during the injection. The use of an ultrasound imaging machine helps an orthopedic specialist to see muscles and tendons in real-time, so they can guide the needle to a more precise location, resulting in the best possible outcome for patients with arthritis.

Joint injections are one of several common methods of arthritis pain relief. Many people are better able to participate in physical therapy with joint injections, and are able to successfully delay surgery this way.

Why would I need an ultrasound-guided injection?

An orthopedic specialist may recommend an ultrasound-guided injection as part of a treatment plan for joint pain. The goal of arthritis treatment is to provide pain relief and increase mobility, and restore your quality of life.

If other therapies such as anti-inflammatory drugs or bracing are not helping, joint injections may be considered as the next course of treatment.

In any treatment plan that includes joint injections, physical therapy is an integral part. Joint injections help to create a window of relief that allows patients to participate in physical therapy and improve their strength and mobility. The optimized physical therapy can reap a ton of rewards, providing long-lasting improvement in quality of life.

How are ultrasound-guided injections different from other joint injections?

Physicians who do not use ultrasound scans, are placing the injection based upon previous x-ray images.  While x-ray scans are important, they fail to show the soft tissue with any true clarity.  Additionally, it is not a “live” scan. It was taken days, weeks, months or even years ago. As a result, your body is in a completely different position, which can lead to imprecise injection positioning, meaning cortisone or gel shots didn’t deliver the kind of relief that was expected. This can be incredibly frustrating and ultimately lead to multiple injections that give little relief.

With the use of an ultrasound machine, an orthopedic specialist is able to see exactly where an injection needs to be administered. With a more precisely targeted injection placement, the aggravated joints or inflamed areas can not only feel greater relief far more quickly, but last far longer longer as well.

What are the benefits of ultrasound-guided injections?

An ultrasound machine exposes our bodies to less radiation than do x-ray machines. Ultrasound machines also produce much clearer images of the soft tissue and tendons that are part of your joints.

The clearer image helps orthopedic experts to deliver a more accurate injection at the precise area of the joint where it is needed. The more targeted the placement of the needle, the better the cortisone/gel shot is able to provide direct relief for the area in pain.