Prolotherapy, sometimes called proliferation therapy, is an innovative medical treatment for chronic musculoskeletal pain. An injection technique, prolotherapy stimulates your body’s ability to heal itself, without using a biological component.
By addressing the underlying causes of pain, prolotherapy provides long-term relief of chronic pain from sports injuries, osteoarthritis, whiplash injuries, chronic or recurrent tendinitis, strains and sprains of ligaments and tendons, and chronic back pain.
It’s also been shown effective in treatment of instability in knees, shoulders, wrists, ankles, hips and other joints.
Where to use it
The strongest evidence for prolotherapy is in treating tendonitis that has not responded to other treatments. These include conditions like tennis elbow, which can result from over-exertion over time in sports, but also from high-repetition injuries like overuse of the computer keyboard.
Achilles tendinopathy, injury and pain in the tendon that connects the heel to the calf, is common in athletes as well as in the general population, and causes a great deal of discomfort and disability.
Plantar fasciitis, another common disorder, is pain in the heel and sole of the foot, caused by tightness in the Achilles tendon.
How prolotherapy works
This treatment stimulates the body’s natural healing factors, causing new tissues to grow in injured or weakened area. Using a slender needle, the doctor injects a natural irritant into an injury, tricking the body into repairing the problem. This allows a gradual buildup of heathy tissue, restoring the body’s original strength.
The therapist will administer a series of injections, usually four to ten, at two- to three-week intervals over three to six months, depending on the type and severity of the injury.
The substances injected are natural, such as dilute, mild sugars and salts. The solution also includes local anesthetics to reduce pain.
Pain involved is very mild, but will depend on the problem being treated, which joint is involved, the substance injected and the ability of the physician administering the treatment. Occasionally it results in increased pain and stiffness, but this usually subsides relatively quickly and can be treated with mild pain medications.
Forms of prolotherapy have been used for centuries. The ancient Romans poked hot needles into wounds of soldiers and gladiators. In the U.S., prolotherapy began in the 1930s to treat injured ligaments, and in the 1950s it began to be used to treat injured joints and hernias.
When to avoid it
Not everyone is a good candidate for this treatment. The first step is a clear diagnosis of the injury. This should include x-rays or other imaging study, so that the treating physician knows exactly where to place the injection.
Contraindications include abscesses, infections, bleeding, acute gouty arthritis and severe fractures.
Some patients are allergic to some of the agents injected.
Successful treatment also requires a physician skilled and experienced in administering this kind of treatment.
Studies show that 85 to 95 percent of patients with low back pain improvement after prolotherapy. Other studies point to great success rates in treatment of ligament and tendon injuries.
Some have shown positive results for treating herniated disks and other sports injuries.
Most patients report mild side effects, from mild pain, irritation or numbness where the needles are injected. Sometimes there is mild bleeding. Most pain can be treated with over-the-counter pain medications such as acetaminophen.
Some patients report light-headedness, allergic reactions or bruising. In rare cases, patients can experience infection or nerve damage.
Find out more
To find more about prolotherapy in Orem Utah, and whether it’s right for you, talk with Dr. Craig Chappell at In2It Medical.