Prolotherapy is also known as “proliferation therapy,” “regenerative injection therapy,” or “proliferative injection therapy”. A commonly-used regenerative therapy for chronic pain, supporters and practitioners of prolotherapy cite its efficacy in healing soft tissue injuries, especially joints, tendons and muscles.
The procedure for a prolotherapy treatment is simple, natural and minimally-invasive; it involves injecting a non-pharmacological and non-active irritant solution into the body in the region of the injured tissue for the purpose of strengthening weakened connective tissue and alleviating musculoskeletal pain.
How Does Prolotherapy Work?
It might seem strange, at first, to purposefully irritate an already-damaged joint or ligament, but the concept is actually quite simple: for your body to rerun its healing program at the injured site, it needs to be told to rerun its healing program at the injured site. Injecting an innocuous solution like dextrose or saline will send this “Injury! Help!” signal, which should cause your body to send healing growth and nutritive factors to the area.
Unlike painkillers, anti-inflammatories and surgical procedures, prolotherapy treatments can offer permanent results, because the idea is to heal the source of the pain, not just remove damage or cover it up.
Is Prolotherapy an Effective Treatment for Joint Pain & Torn Tendons?
Much of the evidence for prolotherapy’s efficacy is anecdotal, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The real-world experience health and wellness doctors have seen with using prolotherapy on patients with painful joint conditions, back problems, torn tendons, and myofascial pain has spurred the start of clinical research. We have seen firsthand the possibilities of prolotherapy at our Cincinnati and New York clinics.
Clinical research is in its early stages, but offers promising findings:
- A study on 90 participants with osteoarthritis in the knee, half treated with dextrose and half with saline prolotherapy injections, all reported increased function and decreased pain and stiffness 1 year after the series of treatments.
- A study on 24 people with osteoarthritis of the knee saw significant improvements in function and pain levels following 3 prolotherapy sessions.
- A laboratory study suggests that this regenerative injection therapy does, in fact, trigger the body’s immune response (in a good way – that means it’s helping).
The advantages to prolotherapy, even though it’s new, is that it’s natural, biocompatible and safe. While minimal swelling and discomfort directly after treatments is to be expected, real risk factors have yet to be observed. Most complications so far have been a result of mistakes by the doctor, causing spinal problems, infection or additional tendon damage. This is why it’s always important to see a reputable doctor who specializes in regenerative injection therapies and stays on the leading edge of medicine.
Understanding the Prolotherapy Procedure
Prolotherapy is a simple procedure that offers many benefits, including reduced pain and stiffness, improved function and range of motion, and even tissue regeneration in damaged ligaments. The procedure itself is quick; it involves the injection of an irritant solution into an area where connective tissue has been weakened or damaged through injury or strain.
Many solutions are used, including saline, dextrose (a sugar), lidocaine (a commonly used local anesthetic), phenol, glycerin, or cod liver oil extract, which means there are options for patients who may be allergic to one or more of these solutions. The injection is given into joints or tendons where they connect to bone.
Prolotherapy treatment sessions are generally given every two to six weeks. Often, a minimum of 3-4 sessions are recommended, but more may be required and sometimes one is enough, depending on your health and the injury. Many patients receive treatment at less and less frequent intervals until treatments are rarely required, if at all.