Osteoarthritis: Injections or Surgery

Osteoarthritis: Injections or Surgery

Injections or surgery may help if you have pain or movement problems that severely limit your activities. Your doctor can tell you more about these treatment options and their risks and complications.

Woman lying on exam table with one knee supported by pillow. Healthcare provider is cleaning knee with cotton swab before injection.


Medication can be injected directly into the affected joint. These shots take a few minutes and are done in your doctor’s office.

  • Corticosteroid injections may be useful for pain relief if you have swelling. This type of shot is safe to do 2 to 3 times a year. Because the shot masks pain, you must be careful not to overuse the joint.

  • Lubricant supplementation injections use a substance similar to one found naturally in the joint. It may help the joint work more smoothly. This type of shot is done only for osteoarthritis in the knees.


Options for surgery include:

  • Arthroscopy. The surgeon looks at and works inside the joint using special instruments inserted through very small incisions. The cartilage is smoothed, and any pieces of cartilage that have broken off are removed.

  • Osteotomy. This surgery changes the weight-bearing surface of the knee or hip joint. The bone and cartilage are aligned to take stress off the afflicted area.

  • Total joint replacement. The entire joint is removed and replaced with manmade joint components. This is most often done with the knee or hip joint.