People are willing to try just about anything to get relief from chronic joint pain, even shooting pieces of a chicken into their knees or shoulders.

Actually, it’s sometimes referred to as a rooster comb injection, also known as viscosupplementation. The key ingredient is hyaluronate, which is derived from processed combs of rooster or hen. Note: Patients with allergies to egg or poultry should not consider a rooster comb injection.

Hyaluronate also is naturally occurring in fluids that keep our joints well lubricated, and make it possible for cartilage and bone to glide smoothly against each other. Hyaluronate is lacking in these joint fluids in people with osteoarthritis, which causes friction that contributes to pain and stiffness.

In my practice, I may use these FDA-approved rooster comb injections as an alternative if physical therapy, over-the-counter medications and other treatments have had little or no impact on a patient’s joint pain. They can, for a time, help improve quality of life for a patient suffering from knee osteoarthritis or other severe joint pain.

It’s a way to manage the symptoms of osteoarthritis, but it’s not a long-term solution.

Depending on the efficacy, a person may need one injection or a round of weekly injections for about a month. The shots normally begin to relieve pain within 1 – 3 months. In some patients, the beneficial effects can last for several months. There are some potential adverse side effects, including pain and joint swelling, but they are rare.

When the pain returns, however, it can be a let-down as patients rightly want permanent relief. That’s why I prefer trying regenerative injection therapy, such as Platelet Rich Plasma injections, to treat this kind of chronic joint pain.

PRP injections are derived from a patient’s own blood and are rich in the body’s natural growth factors.  Patients I have treated have had rounds of PRP injections and have reported their joint pain subsided and did not return.

Several recent studies have shown that PRP injections are better at helping people with chronic joint pain. Usually in these studies, two or more groups of patients receive a round of PRP or rooster comb injections. Re-visiting these groups 6 months and/or 12 months later, the patients who received PRP treatments report little or no pain compared with those who went through a round of viscosupplementation.

However, because rooster comb therapy is an FDA approved treatment, it may be covered by a patient’s insurance and becomes a financially viable treatment option versus PRP and other regenerative injection therapies, which despite years of clinical research and data, remains an option not yet covered by the insurance companies.

This is unfortunate. As sports medicine physician, my job is to help people get back to their best, not just for a little while, but for the long haul.  If we do our job right, people don’t have to return for seemingly endless rounds of injections or treatment.

My decade-plus experience with these cutting-edge treatment options has me convinced they can be a safe, effective treatment option for many people suffering from chronic joint pain. With some more work by leading clinicians and researchers, it will become a more affordable one, too.

Dr. Annette “Dr. Z” Zaharoff heads the Non-Surgical Center of Texas, focusing on non-surgical treatments to relieve pain and repair injuries. A former professional tennis player who competed on the WTA circuit, Dr. Zaharoff remains actively involved with the US Tennis Association. Learn more about her at You can follow her on Facebook at