Osteoarthritis: Injections and Surgery

Injections or surgery may help if you have pain or movement problems that severely limit your activities. Your healthcare provider can tell you more about these treatment choices 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.
Healthcare provider preparing the patient's knee for injection


Medicine can be injected directly into the affected joint. These shots take a few minutes and are done in your healthcare provider’s office:

  • Corticosteroid or steroid injections may ease swelling and pain. The medicine is injected into the joint—for example, the knee or hip. Steroid injections do have risks, so healthcare providers limit the number of injections used in any one joint. 

  • Lubricant supplementation injections use hyaluronic acid, a substance similar to one found naturally in the joint. It may help the joint work more smoothly. These injections are only for osteoarthritis in the knees.


Choices for surgery include:

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

  • Total joint replacement. The entire joint is taken out and replaced with a manmade joint using metal, ceramic, and/or plastic. This is most often done with the knee or hip joint.

  • Other surgery. There are other surgical procedures specific to certain joints. For example, joint resurfacing may be done on the hip joint.