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How effective is hyaluronic acid for knee pain?

Anthony L. Komaroff, MD
Internal Medicine
Hyaluronic acid, hyaluronate, and hyaluronan are different names for the same, viscous substance. Hyaluronic acid is one of the main ingredients of the synovial fluid that lubricates the joints. Part of the reason joints get arthritic is that the fluid starts to break down, so replenishing a bad knee with "fresh" hyaluronic acid makes some sense, and the FDA has approved injections of hyaluronic acid into the knee as a treatment for osteoarthritis. The injections are hardly a cure, but they're reasonably effective, providing about as much pain relief as taking an oral painkiller like ibuprofen or naproxen. Some injectable products (Hyalgan, Supartz, others) are made from "natural" hyaluronic acid derived from the combs of roosters; another (Synvisc) is made from a related synthetic substance called hylan G-F 20. It's not clear which is better.

From what we know, little if any hyaluronic acid gets to the knee if it's taken orally, so it's hard to see how capsules could have much of an effect. But many people swear by them, as they do for glucosamine. Since the only likely harm is to the pocketbook, I don't make much of a fuss about them.
Harvard Medical School Arthritis: Keeping your joints healthy

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Harvard Medical School Arthritis: Keeping your joints healthy

If you have arthritis, you can take steps to protect your joints, reduce discomfort, and improve mobility all of which are detailed in this report. Because describing your symptoms is so important...

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.