MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — You may have heard about the injections pro athletes are getting in sore knees. Even the Twins’ Joe Mauer. But we found that it’s actually a popular procedure for a wide range of patients, some very active, and some just looking for a little relief. And the secret to this magic potion is found in roosters.

It’s hyaluronic acid, a natural fluid that’s found in rooster combs, and marketed under a number of names, including Synvisc and Supartz. It’s part of a procedure that’s called viscosupplementation.

A viscous fluid is injected into an arthritic knee, adding extra lubricant to the joint fluid.

“What viscosupplementation is designed to do,” said Dr. Kirk Aadalen of TRIA Orthopaedic Center, “is to try to bring back the more normal characteristics of that joint fluid.”

It works wonders for Bonnie Harris of St. Paul, a very active 49-year-old, who has been known to get a shot one day, and do Pilates the next.

“Before the first shot,” she said, “I was literally almost dragging my leg around walking. It’s been magical for me.”

Sixty-three-year-old Sue Wiener of Minnetonka just finished her first five-shot series, and her relief is coming slowly. Still, she’s now able to picture a walking trip in Italy next year, and stairs don’t hurt quite so much.

“Stairs were about a nine,” she said, describing her level of pain on a scale of one to 10. “Now I’d say they’re about a five. A five or six.”

The procedure can even help patients who are too old, or frail, for knee replacement surgery. You can do it every six months, like an oil change, but it also has anti-inflammatory properties.

“I’ve got a couple I think in their 90s that come in every once in a while,” said Dr. Aadalen.

It has been used on pro athletes for about a decade, most notably pitcher Randy Johnson. And Joe Mauer made headlines this winter when the Twins revealed his injections. But Harris compares herself to a different celebrity.

“We describe it like we’re the Tin Man (from the Wizard of Oz),” she said.  “We go in and he puts some oil in our joints and then we get to go play for the rest of the winter.”

Dr. Aadalen cautions that it only treats the symptoms of arthritis, and doesn’t grow new cartilage, but for people in pain, it really can feel like magic.

“I certainly don’t counsel patients that this is a fountain of youth,” he said. “But again, it is absolutely designed to decrease the symptoms related to arthritis and to make them more functional than they are with their pain.”

Dr. Aadalen says the next advance may be using hyaluronic acid during arthroscopic knee surgery. But if you have other joint pain, it’s not for you. They’ve tried it on shoulders and hips, and didn’t get the same results.

Comments (10)
  1. Love this stuff says:

    I have bad knees from 21 years in the Army and have had one series of these shots (3 shots per series) and my knees feel like they did 10 years ago. I was apprehensive at first, especially after one knee surgery, but this stuff has postponed surgery #2. I don’t know if would work for everyone, but it is certainly worth checking into.

  2. Buck says:

    Will it help the transmission on my Chevy?

  3. Pat says:

    I went through the shot process and saw absolutely no results. Ended up having both knees replaced.

  4. DAve O. says:

    Dam good prodduct, had these injections in my left knee 4.5 years ago and still going without pain. Beats having surgery. I the knees act up again I will definitely get more shots. 64 year old knees are pain free.

  5. Pain free says:

    I had my first series of 3 injections about 8 years ago. Now there is a new one (Synvisc One) where you only need 1 injection about every 6 months. I’m a little overdue for my next one but will get soon.

  6. Me says:

    I had one shot of Synvisc, and although my knee is not 100%, it is pretty good – good enough NOT to have the only option I have left which is knee replacement.

  7. steve says:

    Like any medical procedure, your results will vary. I went through this process a year ago, but since my knee was bone-on-bone, the shots did absolutely nothing for me. It would have been better to do an MRI and actually see what was going on, rather than guess and keep trying shots and injections. I wasted six months before getting my joint replaced.

  8. Debs says:

    I too had this done. Didn’t work in either knee for me. Waiting until I can afford replacement surgery on both knees. I had the MRI, X-rays too.

  9. Richard says:

    The picture has DQ written all over it. LOL!

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