Prolotherapy involves precision injections of a solution directly into areas where tendons and ligaments attach to bone, and in places where cartilage is worn or damaged for the purpose of repairing and strengthening tendons, ligaments and cartilage. This process creates a localized, controlled inflammatory process that stimulates the body’s own repair mechanisms to heal the damaged tissue. This leads to repair at the exact site of injury. The reason why prolotherapy works is because it addresses the root cause of chronic pain, which is ligament and tendon weakness.
Normally, the body will attempt to heal damaged connective tissues. However, tendons, ligament and cartilage have a poor blood supply by nature, which sometimes leads to incomplete healing. Low blood supply actually impedes optimal healing; this often leads to incompletely healed/chronically injured tissues that become a source of pain and disability.
Compared to the costs and dangers of surgery and a lifetime of pain medications, prolotherapy is a highly cost effective solution, not to mention it preserves bodily tissues through healing and repair. Surgery removes important pieces of tissue (such as protective cartilage) and many pain medications actually inhibit tissue from repairing itself.
Prolotherapy heals tissue by stimulating repair and regeneration. The solutions used in prolotherapy create inflammation, which is the body’s way of healing damaged tissue. Inflammation increases blood supply and the flow of nutrients. This leads to the creation of new collagen, the protein that makes up ligaments, tendons and cartilage. The result is an increase in strength and thickness of the structures along with stabilization of the joints, thus removing the source of pain.
Prolotherapy is useful for treating pain throughout the various tissues and joints of the body; the majority of musculoskeletal pain is thought to originate from weakened ligaments and tendons. This is because when these tissues are weak, they are not fully supporting the muscles of the body and therefore the muscles are forced to contract and tighten as a way to take over the job of the connective tissues. After being continually tight, pain, spasm, and disability are the results.
Prolotherapy works on the premise that the majority of pain in the muscle and skeletal system is caused by weak or damaged connective tissue (tendons, ligaments, cartilage), most of which is found in and around joints. Connective tissue can become weakened or damaged in a variety of ways, whether through repetitive movement (sports) or through degeneration associated with aging, or just suboptimal health.
Some common conditions treated are:
- Most forms of arthritis
- Musculoskeletal pain, overuse injuries, sports injures
- Headaches, whiplash, neck pain
- Back pain, knee pain and instability, foot/ankle pain, plantar fasciitis
- Shoulder pain and instability, tendonitis, golfer/tennis elbow
- Wrist pain, carpal tunnel
- Partially torn tendons and ligaments
FAQ’s About Prolotherapy
1. What is Prolotherapy?
Prolotherapy involves the precision injection of an irritating solution that creates a localized inflammatory reaction where tendons and ligaments attach to bone (cartilage can also be treated). This causes the attachment areas to become much stronger, thereby reducing pain and improving joint function, allowing a return to pain-free activity.
2. How long does it take to heal?
Depending on one’s individual health, the healing and regeneration process typically may take anywhere from 3 to 5 weeks to a few months. This is a relatively short time period compared to a lifetime of pain and disability. As the tissue grows stronger, pain is resolved and function improves.
3. How many Treatments does it take?
This depends on the exact nature of the injury. Some people experience a quick resolution of symptoms after one or two treatments, but on average it requires 3 to 5 sessions separated by 3-5 week intervals.
4. How does Prolotherapy differ from cortisone injections?
Injecting cortisone for any injury has fallen out of favor, mainly because cortisone was found to actually weaken and lead to further damage in the affected area. Prolotherapy strengthens the damaged tissue and assists with healing.
5. Who is an ideal candidate for Prolotherapy?
A person who has localized joint pain or who has recently suffered an injury will typically benefit from prolotherapy. Prolotherapy works by activating the body’s healing mechanisms at the site of injection. Because of this, it is important for a person to be in good health so the body is able to begin the healing process. Prolotherapy is not a quick fix; the body must be given time (weeks to months) to complete the healing process, therefore one must be patient and committed to allowing the healing to take place and for pain to resolve.
6. Why haven’t I heard of Prolotherapy?
Prolotherapy has been around since the 1940s when George S. Hackett, MD, pioneered it. It is not currently taught in medical schools, for a variety of reasons -mainly because medical education focuses primarily on symptom-based treatments such as drugs and surgery. Prolotherapy is a form of preventive medicine and doctors must seek out continuing education opportunities to become proficient in it. Interest in prolotherapy continues to grow rapidly; more and more doctors are learning this valuable technique because it is highly effective and is relatively low in cost in comparison to surgery.
Injury, Pain & Healing
Standard medical care for the majority of sports injuries can involve rehabilitation, physical therapy, steroid injections or even NSAID’s, (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as ibuprofen and aspirin. Rehab and physical therapy offer great benefits and contribute to overall healing. NSAIDS and steroid injections only treat the symptoms (pain) and often have unwanted side effects with negative long term results; they do nothing to address the actual cause of the pain, which is often a weakened ligament or tendon. What people fail to realize is that NSAID’s and steroids inhibit the repair and regeneration of cartilage. Did your doctor happen to mention that to you?
Proper healing occurs when the correct healing environment is provided for the body. This can involve prolotherapy to stimulate joint repair, nutritional support to provide the body with the necessary raw materials to do its job, physical therapy in some cases and exercise. All of this ensures proper functioning and support of all the bodily tissues.
Return to Activity after Prolotherapy
Typically, one will be sore in the days after receiving prolotherapy. This is because we have created spots of inflammation in the tissue that leads to a transient increase in pain. There are several ways of addressing this pain; gentle massage, heat and pain relievers are all effective. If one is in considerable pain that prevents them from going about daily activities, stronger pain medications (not anti-inflammatory!) may be used. It is important to remember that we do not want you to take any anti-inflammatory medications; this will antagonize the healing process!
Many people want to know when they can return to their activity; this depends on the severity of the injury and the extent of treatment. In general however, we do want people to get on their feet and get their body moving. As a rule, one should not exercise vigorously in the few days after receiving prolotherapy, but light exercise is encouraged as the patient feels ready. Follow-ups are recommended to ensure that proper healing is taking place, and to monitor the progression of recovery.