Prolotherapy is one of the most effective and least well known treatments for muscle and joint pain. Prolotherapy has been proven effective for more than 75 years and has saved countless patients from surgery and all the pain and long recovery times that it entails. Unfortunately it is not a procedure taught in medical schools and is often relegated as an alternative or natural remedy.
But virtually all of those who have undergone the procedure agree that it is an effective alternative to treatments which have not worked or like surgery which is radical in the damage caused while attempting to cure chronic pain or disease.
Unlike invasive procedures which do damage to the surrounding areas, prolotherapy actually stimulates the body to heal itself. To understand how it works, we must understand how our joints, ligaments, muscles, and tendons work within our bodies, what happens when we injure them, and the natural process of how the body repairs them and heals itself.
Our Joints, Ligaments, Muscles and Tendons
A joint is the location at which two or more bones make contact. They are constructed to allow movement and provide mechanical support. The bones of the joint are held together by ligaments and the muscles around the joint are connected to each other by tendons.
When you injure yourself, often times what happens is that a ligament holding a joint together is over-stretched or even torn. This puts additional pressure on the surrounding muscles which have to do extra work to help support the joint in addition to their normal work. Thus while you may have intense pain from a muscle spasm, the cause might be a damaged ligament which has caused the muscle to become overworked and spasm in reaction.
Ultimately if you are having joint pain, it is likely that the proximate cause is an injury to one of your ligaments. As noted, the injury could be a tear or it could be just hyper laxity over over stretchiness. Prolotherapy addresses the cause of the pain by helping the body to heal and strengthen the ligament.
Often when the body heals itself after an injury, that healing process is incomplete. Whether you have had an acute injury to a joint or whether your pain comes from long term deterioration or a long ago injury to your ligaments, Prolotherapy stimulates the body to renew the healing process which was incomplete at the time of the injury.
The Healing Process
The body deals with injuries in several steps. Often times injuries include a good deal of swelling as blood rushes to the area. The blood brings with it nutrients and a clean up crew as well. Inflammation is a sign that the body recognizes an injury and is going to work to clean up the area and then heal the damaged parts.
Thus, the purpose of prolotherapy is to actually irritate the body with natural injections which cause inflammation so that the body takes over and renews the healing process and strengthens the surrounding ligaments. Stronger ligaments relieve pressure on muscles and tendons, often providing relief to those who have experienced chronic pain for years.
Prolotherapy treatment requires a proper diagnosis of a dysfunctional joint, ligament, tendon, or nerve. A series of injections is then performed to restore the damaged or dysfunctional structure to its former vitality.
Often the treatment injections are prefaced by smaller injections of lidacaine or another local anesthetic, which will alleviate the pain associated with the therapeutic injections.
The injections are given in the doctor’s office with the patient fully awake. The patient will be able to leave the office on his own after the treatments, usually experiencing much less pain in the area due to the anesthetic. Once the anesthetic wears off pain can return but is usually short lived, one or two days. Pain medication will be provided during the post treatment period. Most patients agree that the short term discomfort experienced after treatment is far outweighed by the long term relief which the patient experiences when the treatment takes affect.
The injections themselves are comprised of a dextrose solution (sugar water) which irritates the area, increases blood flow, causes inflammation, and stimulates the body to heal and strengthen the ligament. Depending upon the extent of the original injury, prolotherapy can entail anywhere from a single treatment to as many as 10 treatments given a month apart, but most prolotherapy treatments are completed in 3-4 visits.